Ming the Mechanic:
Altruistic punishment

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Altruistic punishment2003-04-05 23:59
9 comments
by Flemming Funch

From an anthropology research paper
"Both laboratory and field data suggest that people punish noncooperators even in one-shot interactions. Although such "altruistic punishment" may explain the high levels of cooperation in human societies, it creates an evolutionary puzzle: existing models suggest that altruistic cooperation among nonrelatives is evolutionarily stable only in small groups. Thus, applying such models to the evolution of altruistic punishment leads to the prediction that people will not incur costs to punish others to provide benefits to large groups of nonrelatives. However, here we show that an important asymmetry between altruistic cooperation and altruistic punishment allows altruistic punishment to evolve in populations engaged in one-time, anonymous interactions. This process allows both altruistic punishment and altruistic cooperation to be maintained even when groups are large and other parameter values approximate conditions that characterize cultural evolution in the small-scale societies in which humans lived for most of our prehistory."
Hm, so if I understand it right, most people will punish non-cooperative anti-social behavior when they have the chance, even if they have nothing directly to gain from it, and even if it doesn't produce visible increases in cooperation. And that people mostly have succeeded in collaborating in small groups, but not so much in large groups. Well, what I get out of that is that people are looking for widespread cooperation, and they're making choices to support it, but the right tools for crystalizing it haven't quite appeared yet.


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9 comments

6 Apr 2003 @ 06:40 by newdawn : it's called
the "tall poppy syndrome". Cut down any one who thinks outside the square to keep the status quo in tact and to subjugate the mass populus to a low and vulnerable level of thought ruled by fear and irrationality.  


6 Apr 2003 @ 08:59 by ming : Tall poppy
Oh, that wasn't at all what I was thinking of. But, yes, there's that too. In many societies, people will instinctly try to cut anybody down to size who tries to lift themselves above the crowd. Johnathan Livingston Seagull.

What I understood this as being about was that people would penalize others who didn't act socially. Like, somebody who litters, or who refuses to lend you a pen at the post office.  



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