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Trends Ecol Evol. 2012 May;27(5):288-95. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2011.12.004. Epub 2012 Jan 25.

Punishment and cooperation in nature.

Author information

1
Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, University College London, Gower St, London, WC1E 6BT, UK. nicholaraihani@gmail.com

Abstract

Humans use punishment to promote cooperation in laboratory experiments but evidence that punishment plays a similar role in non-human animals is comparatively rare. In this article, we examine why this may be the case by reviewing evidence from both laboratory experiments on humans and ecologically relevant studies on non-human animals. Generally, punishment appears to be most probable if players differ in strength or strategic options. Although these conditions are common in nature, punishment (unlike other forms of aggression) involves immediate payoff reductions to both punisher and target, with net benefits to punishers contingent on cheats behaving more cooperatively in future interactions. In many cases, aggression yielding immediate benefits may suffice to deter cheats and might explain the relative scarcity of punishment in nature.

PMID:
22284810
DOI:
10.1016/j.tree.2011.12.004
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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