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Costly Signaling and Cooperation

Author

Listed:
  • Eric Alden Smith
  • Samuel Bowles
  • Herbert Gintis

Abstract

We propose an explanation of cooperation among unrelated members of a social group, in which providing group benefits evolves because it constitutes an honest signal of the member's quality as a mate, coalition partner or competitor, and therefore results in advantageous alliances for those signalling in this manner. Our model is framed as an {\itn}-player game that involves no repeated or assortative interactions, and assumes a payoff structure that would conform to an {\n}-player public goods game in which non-cooperation would be a dominant strategy if there were no signaling benefits. We show that honest signaling of underlying quality by providing a public good to group members can be evolutionarily stable. We also show that this behavior is capable of proliferating in a population in which it is initially rare. Our model applies to a range of cooperative interactions, including providing individually consumable resources, participating in group raiding or defense, and punishing free-riding or other violations of social norms. Our signaling model is distinctive in applying to group rather than dyadic interactions and in determining endogenously the fraction of the group that signals high quality in equilibrium.

Suggested Citation

  • Eric Alden Smith & Samuel Bowles & Herbert Gintis, 2000. "Costly Signaling and Cooperation," Working Papers 00-12-071, Santa Fe Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:safiwp:00-12-071
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Andriy Zapechelnyuk & Ro'i Zultan, 2008. "Altruism, Partner Choice, and Fixed-Cost Signalling," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000002199, David K. Levine.
    2. Bergh, Andreas & Engseld, Peter, 2005. "The Problem of Cooperation and Reputation Based Choice," Working Papers 2005:27, Lund University, Department of Economics, revised 04 May 2006.
    3. Jean Tirole & Roland Bénabou, 2006. "Incentives and Prosocial Behavior," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1652-1678, December.
    4. Engseld, Peter & Bergh, Andreas, 2005. "Choosing Opponents in Games of Cooperation and Coordination," Working Papers 2005:1, Lund University, Department of Economics, revised 29 Nov 2005.
    5. Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher, 2004. "Social norms and human cooperation," Macroeconomics 0409026, EconWPA.
    6. Ernst Fehr & Joseph Henrich, "undated". "Markets Is Strong Reciprocity a Maladaptation? On the Evolutionary Foundations of Human Altruism," IEW - Working Papers 140, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
    7. Ernst Fehr & Joseph Henrich, 2003. "Is Strong Reciprocity a Maladaptation? On the Evolutionary Foundations of Human Altruism," CESifo Working Paper Series 859, CESifo Group Munich.
    8. Samuel Bowles & Yongjin Park, 2005. "Emulation, Inequality, and Work Hours: Was Thorsten Veblen Right?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(507), pages 397-412, November.
    9. Chris Knight, 2008. "Language co-evolved with the rule of law," Mind & Society: Cognitive Studies in Economics and Social Sciences, Springer;Fondazione Rosselli, vol. 7(1), pages 109-128, June.
    10. Joseph Henrich, 2007. "The evolution of costly displays, cooperation, and religion. Inferentially potent displays and their implications for cultural evolution," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2007-21, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.
    11. Shultziner, Doron & Dattner, Arnon, 2006. "The Puzzle of Altruism Reconsidered: Biological Theories of Altruism and One-Shot Altruism," Ratio Working Papers 103, The Ratio Institute.
    12. Kjell Hausken, 2006. "A General Equilibrium Model of Signaling and Exchange," Levine's Working Paper Archive 618897000000001035, David K. Levine.
    13. Julian Dormann & Thomas Ehrmann & Michael Kopel, 2008. "Managing the Evolution of Cooperation," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2008-01, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.

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