Strong reciprocity, human cooperation, and the enforcement of social norms

  title={Strong reciprocity, human cooperation, and the enforcement of social norms},
  author={Ernst Fehr and Urs Fischbacher and Simon G{\"a}chter},
  journal={Human Nature},
This paper provides strong evidence challenging the self-interest assumption that dominates the behavioral sciences and much evolutionary thinking. The evidence indicates that many people have a tendency to voluntarily cooperate, if treated fairly, and to punish noncooperators. We call this behavioral propensity “strong reciprocity” and show empirically that it can lead to almost universal cooperation in circumstances in which purely self-interested behavior would cause a complete breakdown of… 

More ‘altruistic’ punishment in larger societies

The hypothesis that population size (and complexity) predicts the level of third-party punishment is tested and shows that people in larger, more complex societies engage in significantly more third- party punishment than people in small-scale societies.

Altruism may arise from individual selection.

Informal punishment of non-cooperators

According to an influential theory known as "strong reciprocity", humans cooperate at high levels due to the rise of altruistic punishers, that is, individuals who not only cooperate themselves but

Reciprocity, culture and human cooperation: previous insights and a new cross-cultural experiment

The experiments demonstrate that many people are ‘strong reciprocators’ who are willing to cooperate and punish others even if there are no gains from future cooperation or any other reputational gains.

Punish and perish?

The evolution of large-scale cooperation among strangers is a fundamental unanswered question in the social sciences. Behavioral economics has persuasively shown that the so-called strong reciprocity

Reciprocity: Weak or strong? What punishment experiments do (and do not) demonstrate

  • F. Guala
  • Economics
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences
  • 2012
It is argued that the wide interpretation of the experimental evidence must be tested using a combination of laboratory data and evidence about cooperation “in the wild,” because there is no evidence that cooperation in the small egalitarian societies studied by anthropologists is enforced by means of costly punishment.

The Biological and Evolutionary Logic of Human Cooperation

This paper argues that group selection is neither necessary nor sufficient to explain human cooperation, and suggests an alternative solution that is simpler, makes fewer assumptions, and is more parsimonious with the empirical data.

Individual heterogeneity and costly punishment: a volunteer's dilemma

It is shown experimentally that implementing the punishment situation as a volunteer's dilemma sustains cooperation in an environment where punishers and non-punishers coexist and that punishment-cost heterogeneity allows individuals to tacitly agree on only the strongest group member carrying out the punishment, thereby increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of social norm enforcement.

Punishment as a Means of Competition: Implications for Strong Reciprocity Theory

The results indicate that certain social contexts exert modifying effects on the role that punishment takes on, and the need for the possible modification of the social conditions of punishment mechanisms described by the strong reciprocity theory as an evolutionary explanation of human cooperation is indicated.

[A test of the strong reciprocity model: relationship between cooperation and punishment].

Compared the participants' levels of cooperation in the prisoner's dilemma game and their inclination for punishment in a third-party punishment game, the results show a weak but positive correlation between cooperation and third- Party punishment, which is consistent with the SRM model.



The Evolution of Strong Reciprocity

Where genetically unrelated members of a group benefit from mutual adherence to a social norm, agents may obey the norm and punish its violators, even when this behavior cannot be justified in terms

Altruistic punishment in humans

It is shown experimentally that the altruistic punishment of defectors is a key motive for the explanation of cooperation, and that future study of the evolution of human cooperation should include a strong focus on explaining altruistic punished.

Why people punish defectors. Weak conformist transmission can stabilize costly enforcement of norms in cooperative dilemmas.

In this paper, we present a cultural evolutionary model in which norms for cooperation and punishment are acquired via two cognitive mechanisms: (1) payoff-biased transmission-a tendency to copy the

Evolution of indirect reciprocity by image scoring

It is proposed that the emergence of indirect reciprocity was a decisive step for the evolution of human societies and the probability of knowing the ‘image’ of the recipient must exceed the cost-to-benefit ratio of the altruistic act.

The Evolution of Reciprocal Altruism

  • R. Trivers
  • Psychology
    The Quarterly Review of Biology
  • 1971
A model is presented to account for the natural selection of what is termed reciprocally altruistic behavior. The model shows how selection can operate against the cheater (non-reciprocator) in the

Costly signaling and cooperation.

It is shown that honest signaling of underlying quality by providing a public good to group members can be evolutionarily stable, and can proliferate in a population in which it is initially rare, provided that certain plausible conditions hold.

Strong reciprocity and human sociality.

  • H. Gintis
  • Economics, Psychology
    Journal of theoretical biology
  • 2000
The evidence for an empirically identifiable form of prosocial behavior in humans, which is called "strong reciprocity", is reviewed and a simple model of the evolutionary emergence of strong reciprocity is presented.

Social preferences: Some simple tests and a new model

Departures from pure self interest in economic experiments have recently inspired models of "social preferences". We conduct experiments on simple two-person and three-person games with binary

Cooperation and Punishment in Public Goods Experiments

This paper provides evidence that free riders are heavily punished even if punishment is costly and does not provide any material benefits for the punisher. The more free riders negatively deviate

Modeling Altruism and Spitefulness in Experiments

We examine a simple theory of altruism in which players' payoffs are linear in their own monetary income and their opponents. The weight on the opponent's income is private information and varies in