Ernesto Reuben

Maladaptive Reciprocal Altruism

Coauthor(s): Sigrid Suetens.


Evidence from economic experiments reveals that unrelated individuals cooperate with each other in settings where they interact anonymously and there are no future gains to reap from cooperation. This evidence is in line with strong reciprocity — the willingness to reward anonymous others for cooperative behavior and punish them for uncooperative behavior even if there is no future interaction. However, it is also consistent with the mistaken use of repeated-interaction strategies. In this paper, we report the results from an experiment designed to determine whether the mistaken use a reciprocal altruism strategy, which we call maladaptive reciprocal altruism, is an important explanation, separate from strong reciprocity, for cooperation in such settings. The experiment shows that maladaptive reciprocal altruism exists and explains a substantial part of the observed cooperation.

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Source: Working paper
Exact Citation:
Reuben, Ernesto, and Sigrid Suetens. "Maladaptive Reciprocal Altruism." Working paper, Columbia University, May 2011.
Date: 5 2011