Coordinated Punishment Does Not Proliferate When Defectors Can Also Punish Cooperators

in “Antisocial Behavior: Etiology, Genetic and Environmental Influences and Clinical Management,” Ed. Gallo JH. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Publishers. ISBN: 978-1-63321-521-4.

19 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2014 Last revised: 1 Feb 2015

See all articles by Collin McCabe

Collin McCabe

Harvard University - Department of Human Evolutionary Biology

David G. Rand

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Date Written: 2014

Abstract

Large-scale cooperation, or the willingness of individuals to incur costs in order to help others, is a defining trait of the human species. However, cooperation poses a theoretical puzzle: since it is individually costly to cooperate, it seems that natural selection should favor non-cooperation (defection). Recently, it has been proposed that coordinated, collective punishment by cooperators of defectors can allow cooperation to invade a population of defectors. Here, we address the fact that in this previous analysis, coordinated punishment was only available to cooperators; defectors had no ability to punish cooperators (i.e. antisocial punishment was not possible). In other models, the inclusion of antisocial punishment has been shown to undermine the ability of punishment to promote cooperation. Thus we examine the effect of allowing coordinated antisocial punishment on the emergence of cooperation. Our results suggest that punishment confers no competitive advantage when it is a strategy available to both cooperators and defectors. While coordinated prosocial punishers can invade a population of non-punishing defectors, they cannot invade a population of coordinated antisocial punishers. These results question the conclusion that coordinated punishment played a central role in the evolution of human cooperation, and highlight the importance of not arbitrarily excluding antisocial punishment strategies from evolutionary models.

Keywords: antisocial behavior, coordinated punishment, cooperation, public goods game

Suggested Citation

McCabe, Collin and Rand, David G., Coordinated Punishment Does Not Proliferate When Defectors Can Also Punish Cooperators (2014). in “Antisocial Behavior: Etiology, Genetic and Environmental Influences and Clinical Management,” Ed. Gallo JH. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Publishers. ISBN: 978-1-63321-521-4.. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2444259

Collin McCabe (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Human Evolutionary Biology ( email )

11 Divinity Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://people.fas.harvard.edu/~mccabe

David G. Rand

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.daverand.org

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