Posts Tagged ‘Robert Boyd’
Humans are incredibly cooperative, but why do people cooperate and how is cooperation maintained? A new research study by UCLA anthropology professor Robert Boyd and his colleagues from the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico suggests cooperation in large groups is maintained by punishment…
Previous models of cooperation assumed that punishment of free-riders was uncoordinated and unconditional. One problem with these models was that the costs associated with punishment were often higher than the gains of cooperation. Thus, the cost of one group member’s punishing a free-rider would be substantial and would not overweigh the gains achieved through increased cooperation…
To address the problem, Boyd and his colleagues changed the assumptions built into previous cooperation/punishment models. First, they allowed for punishment to be coordinated among group members. In their model, group members could signal their willingness to punish someone who was not participating in the group, but punishment would only occur if it was coordinated. This meant the cost of punishing a free-rider would be distributed across members and would not be higher than the cost of gains achieved through increased cooperation.
Second, the researchers allowed for the cost of punishing a free-rider to decline as the number of punishers increased. Boyd explained that this new model was “catching up with common sense” because these two assumptions exist in reality.
Their model had three stages in which a large group of unrelated individuals interacted repeatedly. The first stage was a signaling stage where group members could signal their intent to punish. In the second stage, group members could choose to cooperate or not. The final stage was a punishment stage when group members could punish other group members.
The results of their model look a lot like what is seen in most human societies, where individuals meet and decide whether and how to punish group members who are not cooperating. This is coordinated punishment where group members signal their intent to punish, only punish when a threshold has been met and share the costs of punishing.
I’m not too certain about this one. It’s an interesting start, though.
No doubt others will have different opinions – and wonder if different methods of analysis and sampling might offer different results?