Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
J Theor Biol. 2001 Jan 7;208(1):79-89.

Why people punish defectors. Weak conformist transmission can stabilize costly enforcement of norms in cooperative dilemmas.

Author information

  • 1University of Michigan, 701 Tappan Road, D3276, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1234, USA.


In this paper, we present a cultural evolutionary model in which norms for cooperation and punishment are acquired via two cognitive mechanisms: (1) payoff-biased transmission-a tendency to copy the most successful individual; and (2) conformist transmission-a tendency to copy the most frequent behavior in the population. We first show that if a finite number of punishment stages is permitted (e.g. two stages of punishment occur if some individuals punish people who fail to punish non-cooperators), then an arbitrarily small amount of conformist transmission will stabilize cooperative behavior by stabilizing punishment at some n -th stage. We then explain how, once cooperation is stabilized in one group, it may spread through a multi-group population via cultural group selection. Finally, once cooperation is prevalent, we show how prosocial genes favoring cooperation and punishment may invade in the wake of cultural group selection.

Copyright 2001 Academic Press.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

LinkOut - more resources

Full Text Sources

Other Literature Sources

PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Elsevier Science
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk