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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
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wop:safiwp:01-09-048
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  1. Bester, Helmut & Guth, Werner, 1998. "Is altruism evolutionarily stable?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 34(2), pages 193-209, February.
  2. Sethi, Rajiv & Somanathan, E., 2001. "Preference Evolution and Reciprocity," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 97(2), pages 273-297, April.
  3. Armin Falk & Urs Fischbacher, . "A Theory of Reciprocity," IEW - Working Papers 006, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  4. Sethi, Rajiv & Somanathan, E., 2003. "Understanding reciprocity," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 1-27, January.
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  8. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1999. "A theory of fairness, competition, and cooperation," Munich Reprints in Economics 20650, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  9. Ernst Fehr & Simon G�chter, 2000. "Fairness and Retaliation: The Economics of Reciprocity," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 159-181, Summer.
  10. Charness, Gary & Rabin, Matthew, 2000. "Social Preferences: Some Simple Tests and a New Model," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt46j0d6hb, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  11. Samuel Bowles & Herbert Gintis, 2000. "The Evolution of Reciprocal Preferences," Working Papers 00-12-072, Santa Fe Institute.
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  14. Herbert Gintis, 2000. "Strong Reciprocity and Human Sociality," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers 2000-02, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.
  15. Steffen Huck & Joerg Oechssler, 1995. "The Indirect Evolutionary Approach to Explaining Fair Allocations," Game Theory and Information 9507001, EconWPA, revised 27 Aug 1998.
  16. Sethi, Rajiv, 1996. "Evolutionary stability and social norms," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 113-140, January.
  17. Guth, Werner, 1995. "An Evolutionary Approach to Explaining Cooperative Behavior by Reciprocal Incentives," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer, vol. 24(4), pages 323-44.
  18. 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.
  19. Gale, John & Binmore, Kenneth G. & Samuelson, Larry, 1995. "Learning to be imperfect: The ultimatum game," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 56-90.
  20. Sethi, Rajiv & Somanathan, E, 1996. "The Evolution of Social Norms in Common Property Resource Use," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 766-88, September.
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