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Norm Compliance and Strong Reciprocity

  • Rajiv Sethi
  • E. Somanathan

Strong reciprocity refers to the willingness to sacrifice one's own material self-interest to punish others for opportunistic actions. This propensity provides a decentralized mechanism for the enforcement of social norms, but its extent and persistence poses a theoretical puzzle. Since opportunistic individuals choose optimally to comply with or violate norms based on the likelihood and severity of sanctioning they anticipate, such individuals will always outperform reciprocators within any group. The presence of reciprocators in a group can, however, alter the behavior of opportunists in such a manner as to benefit all members of the group (including reciprocators). We show that under these circumstances, reciprocators can invade a population of opportunists when groups dissolve and are formed anew according to a process of purely random (non-assortative) matching. Furthermore, even when these conditions are not satisfied (so that an opportunistic population is stable) there may exist additional stable population states in which reciprocators are present.

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Paper provided by Santa Fe Institute in its series Working Papers with number 01-09-048.

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Date of creation: Sep 2001
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Handle: RePEc:wop:safiwp:01-09-048
Contact details of provider: Postal: 1399 Hyde Park Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Web page: http://www.santafe.edu/sfi/publications/working-papers.html

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  13. Bester, Helmut & Guth, Werner, 1998. "Is altruism evolutionarily stable?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 34(2), pages 193-209, February.
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  15. Frank, Robert H, 1987. "If Homo Economicus Could Choose His Own Utility Function, Would He Want One with a Conscience?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 593-604, September.
  16. Dufwenberg, Martin & Kirchsteiger, Georg, 2004. "A theory of sequential reciprocity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 268-298, May.
  17. Sethi, Rajiv, 1996. "Evolutionary stability and social norms," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 113-140, January.
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