The Evolutionary Foundations of Strong Reciprocity

Analyse & Kritik 27 (1):106-112 (2005)
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Abstract

Strong reciprocators possess two behavioural dispositions: they are willing to bestow benefits on those who have bestowed benefits, and they are willing to punish those who fail to bestow benefits according to some social norm. There is no doubt that peoples' behaviour, in many cases, agrees with what we would expect if people are strong reciprocators, and Fehr and Henrich argue that many people are, in fact, strong reciprocators. They also suggest that strongly reciprocal behaviour may be brought about by specialised cognitive architecture produced by evolution. I argue that specialised cognitive architecture can play a role in the production of strongly reciprocal behaviour only in a very attenuated sense, and that the evolutionary foundations of strong reciprocity are more likely cultural than biological.

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