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Cooperation, Reciprocity and Punishment in Fifteen Small-scale Societies

Author

Listed:
  • Joseph Henrich
  • Robert Boyd
  • Samuel Bowles
  • Colin Camerer
  • Ernst Fehr
  • Herbert Gintis
  • Richard McElreath

Abstract

Recent investigations have uncovered large, consistent deviations from the predictions of the textbook representation of Homo Economicus: in addition to their own material payoffs, many experimental subjects appear to care about fairness and reciprocity and reward those who act in a cooperative manner while punishing those who do not even when these actions are costly to the individual. These deviations from what we will term the canonical Economic Man model have important consequences for a wide range of economic phenomena, including the optimal design of institutions and contracts, the allocation of property rights, the conditions for successful collective action, the analysis of incomplete contracts, and the persistence of noncompetitive wage premia. However, existing research is limited because virtually all subjects have been university students: we would like to know how universal these behaviors are and whether they vary with local cultural or economic environments. To address these questions we and our collaborators (11 anthropologists and 1 economist) conducted ultimatum, public good, and dictator game experiments with subjects from fifteen hunter gatherer, nomadic herding and other small-scale societies exhibiting a wide variety of economic and cultural conditions. We can summarize our results as follows. First, the Economic Man model is not supported in any society studied. Second, there is considerably more behavioral variability across groups than had been found in previous cross-cultural research and the canonical model fails in a wider variety of ways than in previous experiments. Third, group-level differences in the structure of everyday social interactions explain a substantial portion of the behavioral variation across societies: the higher the degree of market integration and the higher the payoffs to cooperation in the production of their livelihood, the greater the level of cooperation in experimental games. Fourth, individual-level economic and demographic variables do not explain behavior either within or across groups. Fifth, behavior in the experiments is generally consistent with economic patterns of everyday life in these societies.

Suggested Citation

  • Joseph Henrich & Robert Boyd & Samuel Bowles & Colin Camerer & Ernst Fehr & Herbert Gintis & Richard McElreath, 2001. "Cooperation, Reciprocity and Punishment in Fifteen Small-scale Societies," Working Papers 01-01-007, Santa Fe Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:safiwp:01-01-007
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gächter, 2000. "Fairness and Retaliation: The Economics of Reciprocity," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 159-181, Summer.
    2. Roth, Alvin E. & Vesna Prasnikar & Masahiro Okuno-Fujiwara & Shmuel Zamir, 1991. "Bargaining and Market Behavior in Jerusalem, Ljubljana, Pittsburgh, and Tokyo: An Experimental Study," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(5), pages 1068-1095, December.
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    1. Şempanzeler insanlardan daha rasyonel!
      by ? in N. Emrah Aydınonat (Türkçe) on 2007-10-20 17:00:00
    2. Is behavioural economics just a fad?
      by Diane Coyle in The Enlightened Economist on 2011-11-02 17:23:28

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Joseph Henrich, 2001. "In Search of Homo Economicus: Behavioral Experiments in 15 Small-Scale Societies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 73-78, May.
    2. Karla Hoff & Mayuresh Kshetramade & Ernst Fehr, 2011. "Caste and Punishment: the Legacy of Caste Culture in Norm Enforcement," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 121(556), pages 449-475, November.
    3. Antoni Bosch & Joaquim Silvestre, 2003. "Do the Wealthy Risk More Money? An Experimental Comparison," Working Papers 10, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
    4. Dean S. Karlan, 2005. "Using Experimental Economics to Measure Social Capital and Predict Financial Decisions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(5), pages 1688-1699, December.
    5. Teck-Hua Ho & Xuanming Su, 2009. "Peer-Induced Fairness in Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(5), pages 2022-2049, December.
    6. Durante, Ruben, 2009. "Risk, Cooperation and the Economic Origins of Social Trust: an Empirical Investigation," MPRA Paper 25887, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Berggren, Niclas & Nilsson, Therese, 2016. "Tolerance in the United States: Does economic freedom transform racial, religious, political and sexual attitudes?," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 45(S), pages 53-70.
    8. Beugré, Constant D., 2009. "Exploring the neural basis of fairness: A model of neuro-organizational justice," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 110(2), pages 129-139, November.
    9. Safarzyńska, Karolina, 2013. "Evolutionary-economic policies for sustainable consumption," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 187-195.
    10. Denis COGNEAU, 2012. "The Political Dimension Of Inequality During Economic Development," Region et Developpement, Region et Developpement, LEAD, Universite du Sud - Toulon Var, vol. 35, pages 11-36.
    11. J. Graafland, 2010. "Do Markets Crowd Out Virtues? An Aristotelian Framework," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 91(1), pages 1-19, January.
    12. Jonathan D. Cohen, 2005. "The Vulcanization of the Human Brain: A Neural Perspective on Interactions Between Cognition and Emotion," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(4), pages 3-24, Fall.
    13. Adam Fforde, 2005. "Persuasion: Reflections on economics, data, and the 'homogeneity assumption'," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(1), pages 63-91.
    14. Ben-Ner, Avner & Putterman, Louis & Kong, Fanmin & Magan, Dan, 2004. "Reciprocity in a two-part dictator game," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 53(3), pages 333-352, March.
    15. Chun-Lei Yang & Ching-Syang Jack Yue & I-Tang Yu, 2007. "The rise of cooperation in correlated matching prisoners dilemma: An experiment," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 10(1), pages 3-20, March.
    16. Samuel Bowles & Herbert Gintis, 2002. "Social Capital and Community Governance," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(483), pages 419-436, November.
    17. Sanjit Dhami & Ali al-Nowaihi, 2016. "Social responsibility, human morality and public policy," Discussion Papers in Economics 16/20, Department of Economics, University of Leicester.
    18. Marchionatti, Roberto, 2012. "The economists and the primitive societies," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 41(5), pages 529-540.
    19. Calero, Analía Verónica, 2006. "La influencia de las instituciones en la racionalidad del individuo a partir de Adam Smith
      [The influence of institutions on individuals rationality from Adam Smith]
      ," MPRA Paper 32018, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    20. Berggren, Niclas & Nilsson, Therese, 2015. "Globalization and the transmission of social values: The case of tolerance," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 371-389.
    21. Fischer, Justina A.V., 2008. "Is competition good for trust? Cross-country evidence using micro-data," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 100(1), pages 56-59, July.
    22. Schlüter, Maja & Baeza, Andres & Dressler, Gunnar & Frank, Karin & Groeneveld, Jürgen & Jager, Wander & Janssen, Marco A. & McAllister, Ryan R.J. & Müller, Birgit & Orach, Kirill & Schwarz, Nina & Wij, 2017. "A framework for mapping and comparing behavioural theories in models of social-ecological systems," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 131(C), pages 21-35.
    23. Peter Hans Matthews, 2004. "Who is Post-Walrasian Man?," Middlebury College Working Paper Series 0412, Middlebury College, Department of Economics.
    24. Benito Arruñada, 2005. "Human nature and institutional analysis," Economics Working Papers 822, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Sep 2008.
    25. Chun Lei Yang & Ching Syang Jack Yue, 2004. "The Rise of Cooperation in Correlated Matching Prisoners Dilemma: An Experiment," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000097, UCLA Department of Economics.

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