Friday, May 26, 2006

Cooperation, Punishment, and the Evolution of Human Institutions

This is the title of a review by Henrich of studies on how human cooperations and sanctions might have evolved, which specifically cites a paper by Gurerk et al in Science. People are offered the choice of two institutions in which individuals make voluntary contributions with the total then being equally distributed among all. Participants know what was contributed by others. In the first, individuals who do not contribute still receive an equal share of the total collected but no sanctions are applied to poor contributors. In the second, participants can choose to penalize slackers at some cost to themselves. The authors show "that a sanctioning institution is the undisputed winner in a competition with a sanction-free institution. Despite initial aversion, the entire population migrates successively to the sanctioning institution and strongly cooperates, whereas the sanction-free society becomes fully depopulated. The findings demonstrate the competitive advantage of sanctioning institutions and exemplify the emergence and manifestation of social order driven by institutional selection."

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