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Altruistic Punishment in Humans

Ernst Fehr () and Simon Gaechter
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Simon Gaechter: University of St. Gallen

Authors registered in the RePEc Author Service: Simon Gächter ()

Microeconomics from University Library of Munich, Germany

Abstract: Human cooperation is an evolutionary puzzle. Unlike other creatures, people frequently cooperate with genetically unrelated strangers, often in large groups, with people they will never meet again, and when reputation gains are small or absent. These patterns of cooperation cannot be explained by the nepotistic motives associated with the evolutionary theory of kin selection and the sel®sh motives associated with signalling theory or the theory of reciprocal altruism. Here we show experimentally that the altruistic punishment of defectors is a key motive for the explanation of cooperation. Altruistic punishment means that individuals punish, although the punishment is costly for them and yields no material gain. We show that cooperation ¯ourishes if altruistic punishment is possible, and breaks down if it is ruled out. The evidence indicates that negative emotions towards defectors are the proximate mechanism behind altruistic punishment. These results suggest that future study of the evolution of human cooperation should include a strong focus on explaining altruistic punishment.

Keywords: Human cooperation; Altruistic; punishment (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D00 J00 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cbe
Date: 2003-05-07
Note: Type of Document - Acrobat PDF; pages: 4
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Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:wpa:wuwpmi:0305006

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