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Bowles, S., Gintis, H. (2004). The Evolution of Strong Reciprocity: Cooperation in Heterogeneous Populations. Theoretical Population Biology 65, 17-28

How do human groups maintain a high level of cooperation despite a low level of genetic relatedness among group members? We suggest that many humans have a predisposition to punish those who violate group-beneficial norms, even when this imposes a fitness cost on the punisher. Such altruistic punishment is widely observed to sustain high levels of cooperation in behavioral experiments and in natural settings.
We offer a model of cooperation and punishment that we call strong reciprocity: where members of a group benefit from mutual adherence to a social norm, strong reciprocators obey the norm and punish its violators, even though as a result they receive lower payoffs than other group members, such as selfish agents who violate the norm and do not punish, and pure cooperators who adhere to the norm but free-ride by never punishing. Our agent-based simulations showthat, under assumptions approximating likely human environments over the 100,000 years prior to the domestication of animals and plants, the proliferation of strong reciprocators when initially rare is highly likely, and that substantial frequencies of all three behavioral types can be sustained in a population. As a result, high levels of cooperation are sustained. OUr results do not require that group members be related or that group extinctions occur.


Bowles, Samuel

Note: all the information contained in this page is taken from Prof. Bowles' personal web site. Please check this link for updates and further details. My research focuses on two areas (much of it conducted jointly with Herbert Gintis and Collaborators). The first concerns the co-evolution...

Gintis, Herbert

Herbert Gintis (born 1940) is an American behavioral scientist, educator, and author. He is notable for his foundational views on Altruism, Cooperation, Epistemic Game Theory, Gene-culture Coevolution, Efficiency wages, Strong Reciprocity, and Human capital theory. Gintis has also written...

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