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
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.
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