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Retaliation and the Role for Punishment in the Evolution of Cooperation


  • Irenaeus Wolff

    () (Thurgau Institute of Economics at the University of Konstanz, Department of Economics, Germany)


Models of evolutionary game theory have shown that punishment may be an adaptive behaviour in environments characterised by a social-dilemma situation. Experimental evidence closely corresponds to this finding but questions the cooperation-enhancing effect of punishment if players are allowed to retaliate against their punishers. This study provides a theoretical explanation for the existence of retaliating behaviour in the context of repeated social dilemmas and analyses the role punishment can play in the evolution of cooperation under these conditions. We show a punishing strategy can pave the way for a partially-cooperative equilibrium of conditional cooperators and defecting types and, under positive mutation rates, foster the cooperation level in this equilibrium by prompting reluctant cooperators to cooperate. However, when rare mutations occur, it cannot sustain cooperation by itself as punishment costs favour the spread of non-punishing cooperators

Suggested Citation

  • Irenaeus Wolff, 2012. "Retaliation and the Role for Punishment in the Evolution of Cooperation," Working Paper Series of the Department of Economics, University of Konstanz 2012-13, Department of Economics, University of Konstanz.
  • Handle: RePEc:knz:dpteco:1213

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    More about this item


    Public goods; Prisoner's Dilemma; Strong reciprocity; Counterpunishment;

    JEL classification:

    • C73 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Stochastic and Dynamic Games; Evolutionary Games
    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods

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