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Ernst Fehr University of Zurich Simon Gaechter University of St. Gallen.

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Presentation on theme: "Ernst Fehr University of Zurich Simon Gaechter University of St. Gallen."— Presentation transcript:

1 Ernst Fehr University of Zurich Simon Gaechter University of St. Gallen

2 Why does society tend to be like this, rather than…

3 Sorry, couldn’t resist…

4  Paraphrasing Haidt: We would be astonished to learn that an army on the march was composed entirely of siblings (unless they were hymenoptera, of course)  Human beings have an uncanny ability to get along with non-relatives, even anonymous strangers  Cooperation with non-kin is said to be a cornerstone of civilization; it keeps us from being little more than nepotistic warring tribes Introduction

5  Altruism: any behavior that benefits the receiver at a cost to the doer of the deed  Going to war and participating in big game hunts are instances of altruism often given from our EEA  Seemingly altruistic behaviors are usually explained as 1) kin selection 2) reciprocal altruism or 3) costly signaling  The nature of every day interactions tends to rule out these motives for cooperative behavior

6  Daily interactions are generally with unrelated people; these interactions are not repeated and no significant gains or losses in reputation are risked.  Fehr and Gaechter designed an experiment mimicking these conditions in which 240 Swiss undergraduates played a “public goods” game  Fehr and Gaechter wanted to look at: 1) whether humans engage in altruistic punishment 2) whether or not negative emotions against “free riders” might be the proximate cause of this behavior

7  Subjects divided into groups of four  Each subject starts game with 20 MU  Each subject can contribute 0-20 MU to group .4 MU is given to each group member for each MU a group member contributes  Contributing yields outcomes from 0-32MU while withholding all MU ranges from 20-44MU  It is always in the individual’s best interest to selfishly withhold all funds

8  6 trials in all; groups scrambled after each run  Contributions made anonymously & simultaneously  Participants informed of how much everyone gave after each trial  The game was played 3x each under 2 conditions, the only difference being the opportunity to punish in either the first or final 3 trials  In the punishment condition, a participant could impose 0 to 10 punishment points on anyone they wished  A punishment point cost the giver 1 MU but cost the recipient 3 MU More Rules…

9 Results:  Subjects punished often  84% punished at least once, 34.3% more than 5 times, and 9.3% more than 10x  1,270 punishments were meted out in all  Punishments were severe  If a subject invested MU’s less than the average, the group as a whole would invest almost 10 MU’s to punish that cheater.  Punishment was effective  There was a significant increase in investment after punishment (1.62 MU)  The average investment was significantly higher in the punishment condition  94.2% gave more in the punishment condition

10 -People gave less and less in lieu of punishment, and more and more when punishment was possible. -People gave closer and closer to the average amount given with each successive trial. -The threat/removal of punishment was generally enough to induce more/less cooperation

11  The more a perceived defector’s investment deviated from the average, the more severely that subject was punished.  Most acts of punishment were on below- average investors, meted out by above-average investors (74.2% of punishments on defectors were meted out by cooperators)  Establishing a norm : Under the punishment condition, making a contribution close to the mean ( the sweet spot ) was how even selfish individuals could profit the most  The mere threat of punishment seemed to be immediately effective

12  The first part of the study suggested that people do engage in altruistic punishment.  Fehr and Gaechter next administered a questionnaire to determine whether ill feelings towards cheaters instigated the punishing behavior  The subjects who played the public goods game plus 33 others answered hypothetically both as cooperators and freeloaders  They rated how angry four different scenarios made them on a Likert-type scale from 1 to 7 Emotion as Proximate Mechanism

13  In scenario #1, greater contribution disparity elicited stronger negative reactions from cooperators  In scenario 2, less contribution disparity elicited less intense negative reactions from cooperators  In scenario 3, greater contribution disparity meant stronger negative reactions were anticipated by freeloaders  In scenario 4, less contribution disparity meant less intense negative reactions anticipated by freeloaders  Overall, contribution disparity correlated with anger, and freeloaders anticipated even more anger aimed at them than cooperators expressed Four Unfair Scenarios, Two Possible Perspectives

14  “Just as Glaucon argued in his ring of Gyges example,” subjects tended inexorably towards Homo economicus when punishment was not threatened  According to Haidt, we’re willing to pay sometimes to see karma run its course  Proportionality was a salient factor in determining people’s reactions to unfairness  “When a few members of a group contribute far more than the others…most adults do not want to see the benefits distributed equally”

15  F & G state: “Cooperation flourishes if altruistic punishment is possible” –Do we agree?  Cooperation seems to break down in lieu of altruistic punishment –Are altruistic punishers the pillars without whom our world would crumble?  Punishment showed a clear and consistent pattern from the beginning. Do humans have an inborn propensity to altruistically punish or is this taught?  Do people have an ingrained expectation of the altruistic punisher as well, or is that learned?  Could this explain why punishment generally need not actually be meted out but rather merely suggested in order to be effective?  Ecological validity: Can we really expect to penalize people 3 MU’s for our 1 MU in real life? In what ways do humans make their contribution to society? How do we punish defectors?

16  If we really do live in a world in which, as Haidt suggests, everybody cheats a little bit, then it might truly be imperative to hold the fabric of our society together that everybody punishes a little bit, too, even if, in doing so, they are actually cheating themselves.

17 The End Is this an instance of altruistic punishment?


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