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The Hitchhiker's Guide to Altruism: Gene-Culture Coevolution, and the Internalization of Norms

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  • Herbert Gintis

Abstract

The internalization of norms refers to the tendency of human beings to adopt social norms from parents (vertical transmission) or influential elders (oblique transmission). Authority rather than fitness-enhancing capacity accounts for the adoption of internalized norms. Suppose there is one genetic locus that controls whether or not an individual is capable of internalizing norms. We extend the seminal models of Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman (1981) to show that if adopting a norm is fitness enhancing, the allele for internalization can evolve to fixation. Moreover, even a small amount of oblique transmission in favor of the norm renders fixation virtually inevitable. We then add to the model a replicator dynamic (horizontal transmission of fitness-enhancing phenotypic traits), showing that the tendency of agents to switch from lower to higher-fitness norms enlarges the basin of attraction of the internalization allele. Finally, we use this framework to model analytically Herbert Simon's (1990) explanation of altruism. Simon suggested that altruistic norms, which are by definition fitness-reducing, could 'hitchhike' on the general tendency of the internalization of norms to be fitness-enhancing. We find that the altruistic phenotype can evolve only if there is a sufficient level of oblique transmission, even when there is a strong horizontal transmission process biased against the altruistic norm.

Suggested Citation

  • Herbert Gintis, 2001. "The Hitchhiker's Guide to Altruism: Gene-Culture Coevolution, and the Internalization of Norms," Working Papers 01-10-058, Santa Fe Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:safiwp:01-10-058
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    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. Edward L. Glaeser & David Laibson & Jose A. Scheinkman & Christine L. Soutter, 1999. "What is Social Capital? The Determinants of Trust and Trustworthiness," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1875, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
    3. Herbert Gintis, 1975. "Welfare Economics and Individual Development: A Reply to Talcott Parsons," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 89(2), pages 291-302.
    4. M.A. Nowak & K. Sigmund, 1998. "Evolution of Indirect Reciprocity by Image Scoring/ The Dynamics of Indirect Reciprocity," Working Papers ir98040, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.
    5. Ken Binmore, 1998. "Game Theory and the Social Contract - Vol. 2: Just Playing," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 2, number 0262024446, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Azar, Ofer H., 2004. "What sustains social norms and how they evolve?: The case of tipping," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 49-64, May.
    2. Khalil, Elias, 2006. "The Roadblock of Culturalist Economics: Economic Change á la Douglass North," MPRA Paper 1045, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Rowthorn, Robert E. & Guzmán, Ricardo Andrés & Rodríguez-Sickert, Carlos, 2009. "Theories of the evolution of cooperative behaviour: A critical survey plus some new results," MPRA Paper 12574, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Friederike Mengel, 2006. "A Model Of Immigration, Integration And Cultural Transmission Of Social Norms," Working Papers. Serie AD 2006-08, Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Económicas, S.A. (Ivie).

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    Keywords

    Altruism; cultural evolution;

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