Indirect punishment and generosity towards strangers

A.M. Riedl, S.A. Cason, A. Schram, A. Ule

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Many people incur costs to reward strangers who have been kind to others. Theoretical and experimental evidence suggests that such "indirect rewarding" sustains cooperation between unrelated humans. Its emergence is surprising, because rewarders incur costs but receive no immediate benefits. It can prevail in the long run only if rewarders earn higher payoffs than "defectors" who ignore strangers' kindness. We provide experimental evidence regarding the payoffs received by individuals who employ these and other strategies, such as "indirect punishment" by imposing costs on unkind strangers. We find that if unkind strangers cannot be punished, defection earns most. If they can be punished, however, then indirect rewarding earns most. Indirect punishment plays this important role, even if it gives a low payoff and is rarely implemented.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1701-1704
Number of pages4
JournalScience
Volume326
Issue number5960
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009

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