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
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
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
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
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…
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 14-20 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
-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
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
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
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
“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”
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?
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.
The End Is this an instance of altruistic punishment?