Altruistic Punishment and the Origin of Cooperation

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 102, No. 19, pp. 7047-7049, May 2005

10 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2007

See all articles by James H. Fowler

James H. Fowler

UC San Diego Division of Social Sciences; UC San Diego School of Medicine

Abstract

How did human cooperation evolve? Recent evidence shows that many people are willing to engage in altruistic punishment, voluntarily paying a cost to punish noncooperators. While this behaviour helps to explain how cooperation can persist, it creates an important puzzle. If altruistic punishment provides benefits to nonpunishers and is costly to punishers, then how could it evolve? Drawing on recent insights from voluntary public goods games, I present a simple evolutionary model in which altruistic punishers can enter and will always come to dominate a population of contributors, defectors, and nonparticipants. The model suggests that the cycle of strategies in voluntary public goods games does not persist in the presence of punishment strategies. It also suggests that punishment can only enforce payoff-improving strategies, contrary to a widely-cited "folk theorem" result that suggests punishment can allow the evolution of any strategy.

Suggested Citation

Fowler, James H., Altruistic Punishment and the Origin of Cooperation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 102, No. 19, pp. 7047-7049, May 2005. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1007992

James H. Fowler (Contact Author)

UC San Diego Division of Social Sciences ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Code 0521
La Jolla, CA 92093-0521
United States

HOME PAGE: http://jhfowler.ucsd.edu

UC San Diego School of Medicine ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
MC 0507
La Jolla, CA 92093
United States

HOME PAGE: http://jhfowler.ucsd.edu

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