The Evolution of Morals Under Indirect Reciprocity

Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research - Discussion Papers No. 370, June 2019

46 Pages Posted: 19 Jun 2019

See all articles by Alexia Gaudeul

Alexia Gaudeul

Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

Claudia Keser

University of Goettingen (Gottingen)

Stephan Müller

University of Goettingen (Gottingen)

Date Written: June 11, 2019

Abstract

We study the coexistence of strategies in the indirect reciprocity game where agents have access to second-order information. We fully characterize the evolutionary stable equilibria and analyze their comparative statics with respect to the cost-benefit ratio (CBR). There are indeed only two stable sets of equilibria enabling cooperation, one for low CBRs involving two strategies and one for higher CBR’s which involves two additional strategies. We thereby offer an explanation for the coexistence of different moral judgments among humans. Both equilibria require the presence of second-order discriminators which highlights the necessity for higher-order information to sustain cooperation through indirect reciprocity. In a laboratory experiment, we find that more than 75% of subjects play strategies that belong to the predicted equilibrium set. Furthermore, varying the CBR across treatments leads to changes in the distribution of strategies that are in line with theoretical predictions.

Keywords: Indirect reciprocity, Cooperation, Evolution, Experiment

JEL Classification: C73, C91, D83

Suggested Citation

Gaudeul, Alexia and Keser, Claudia and Müller, Stephan, The Evolution of Morals Under Indirect Reciprocity (June 11, 2019). Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research - Discussion Papers No. 370, June 2019. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3402479 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3402479

Alexia Gaudeul

Georg-August-Universität Göttingen ( email )

Platz der Goettinger Sieben 3
Goettingen, 37073
Germany
+49 (0) 551 39 7333 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://agaudeul.free.fr

Claudia Keser

University of Goettingen (Gottingen) ( email )

Platz der Göttinger Sieben 3
Göttingen, 37073
Germany

Stephan Müller (Contact Author)

University of Goettingen (Gottingen) ( email )

Platz der Gottinger Sieben 3
Gottingen, D-37073
Germany

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