Indignation and the Evolution of Cooperation Norms

46 Pages Posted: 27 Jan 2020 Last revised: 4 Mar 2024

See all articles by Xueheng Li

Xueheng Li

Lingnan College, Sun Yat-sen University

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Date Written: November 7, 2021


Sociologists and psychologists have long argued that emotions are essential to sustain social norms. This study examines the role of indignation in upholding cooperation norms within society. I model indignation in a population psychological game and characterize the stochastically stable equilibrium in a noisy best-reply dynamic. The analysis yields two findings. First, indignation sustains cooperation in the long run, irrespective of whether interactions are global or occur within a fixed local interaction structure. Second, mobility between communities fosters the emergence, expansion, and persistence of cooperative communities, leading to positive correlations among mobility, community size, cooperation, and the punishment of defectors. This study demonstrates the application of stochastic stability analysis to address multiple equilibria in psychological games.

Keywords: Social norms, cooperation, costly punishment, stochastic dynamics, stochastic stability, psychological game

JEL Classification: C73, D63, H41

Suggested Citation

Li, Xueheng, Indignation and the Evolution of Cooperation Norms (November 7, 2021). Available at SSRN: or

Xueheng Li (Contact Author)

Lingnan College, Sun Yat-sen University ( email )

GuangZhou, GuangDong

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