Mind and Society 9 (2):171-192 (2010)
In the past decade, experiments on altruistic punishment have played a central role in the study of the evolution of cooperation. By showing that people are ready to incur a cost to punish cheaters and that punishment help to stabilise cooperation, these experiments have greatly contributed to the rise of group selection theory. However, despite its experimental robustness, it is not clear whether altruistic punishment really exists. Here, I review the anthropological literature and show that hunter-gatherers rarely punish cheaters. Instead, they avoid dealing with them and switch to other partners. I suggest that these data are better explained by individual selection, and in particular by partner choice models, in which individuals are in competition to be recruited by cooperative partners. I discuss two apparent problems for partner choice theories: large-scale cooperation and punishments in economic games. I suggest that rather than favouring group selection theory, these two phenomena provide evidence in favour of individual selection: (1) people produce large-scale cooperation through institutions in which punishment is not altruistic but rewarded on an individual basis; (2) punishment in experimental games can be explained without altruism and is indeed often better explained by individual interests
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References found in this work BETA
Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior.Elliott Sober & David Sloan Wilson - 1998 - Harvard University Press.
Explaining Altruistic Behaviour in Humans.Herb Gintis, Samuel Bowles, Robert Boyd & Fehr & Ernst - 2009 - In Robin Dunbar & Louise Barrett (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology. Oxford University Press.
Citations of this work BETA
A Mutualistic Approach to Morality: The Evolution of Fairness by Partner Choice.Nicolas Baumard, Jean-Baptiste André & Dan Sperber - 2013 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 36 (1):59-122.
Reciprocity: Weak or Strong? What Punishment Experiments Do Demonstrate.Francesco Guala - 2012 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 35 (1):1-15.
Explaining Moral Religions.Nicolas Baumard & Pascal Boyer - 2013 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 17 (6):272-280.
Nativism and the Evolutionary Debunking of Morality.Brendan Cline - 2015 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 6 (2):231-253.
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