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Negative indirect reciprocity : theory and evidence Chudek, Matthew


Explanations of humans' evolutionary origins that invoke the ratchet of cumulative cultural learning must confront the `cooperative dilemma of culture'. Adaptive cultural knowledge is a widely shared but easily degraded public goodle knowledge and to deceive and manipulate each other. How did our ancestors avoid the temptation to hoard valuab, before the advent of complex social institutions? I present one possible solution: negative indirect reciprocity (NIR). I use a series of mathematical models to reason about how our ancient ancestors' dispositions to gainfully exploit one another could have supported more complex forms of cooperation, providing a foundation for our rapidly evolving corpus of shared cultural know-how. Together these models show how reputation-based, opportunistic exploitation can play a pivotal role in sustaining cooperation in small scale societies, even before the advent of complex institutions. I also present two empirical tests of the assumptions made by these models. First, I measure contemporary reputational judgements in circumstances that the models predict are relevant. In the process I also map my participants' judgements to the full set of first and second-order reputation assessment rules described by indirect reciprocity theory. Second, I test whether a recently observed peculiarity of people's moral reasoning---our tendency to ascribe blame to those who profit from others suffering because of mere good fortune---is consistent with the constraints assumed by NIR. The results of both empirical studies support the assumptions made by NIR.

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