EconPapers    
Economics at your fingertips  
 

Strong Reciprocity, Human Cooperation and the Enforcement of Social Norms

Ernst Fehr (), Urs Fischbacher and Simon Gächter ()

Microeconomics from University Library of Munich, Germany

Abstract: 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 non-cooperators. 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 cooperation. In addition, we show that people are willing to punish those who behaved unfairly towards a third person or who defected in a Prisoner’s Dilemma game with a third person. This suggests that strong reciprocity is a powerful device for the enforcement of social norms like, e.g., food-sharing norms or collective action norms. Strong Reciprocity cannot be rationalized as an adaptive trait by the leading evolutionary theories of human cooperation, i.e., by kin selection theory, reciprocal altruism theory, indirect reciprocity theory and costly signaling theory. However, multi-level selection theories and theories of cultural evolution are consistent with strong reciprocity.

Keywords: Strong Reciprocity; Punishment; Evolution; Human Cooperation; Social Norms (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 - ; pages: 25
References: View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations View citations in EconPapers (13) Track citations by RSS feed

Downloads: (external link)
https://econwpa.ub.uni-muenchen.de/econ-wp/mic/papers/0305/0305008.pdf (application/pdf)

Related works:
This item may be available elsewhere in EconPapers: Search for items with the same title.

Export reference: BibTeX RIS (EndNote, ProCite, RefMan) HTML/Text

Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:wpa:wuwpmi:0305008

Access Statistics for this paper

More papers in Microeconomics from University Library of Munich, Germany
Bibliographic data for series maintained by EconWPA ().

 
Page updated 2018-12-15
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpmi:0305008