Monday, March 24, 2008

Cross-cultural study of cooperation and freeloaders

Here's a neat study that investigates how cultural background impacts social behavior. It looks at some of the same themes as my "Rise of Cooperation" toy you can download from the toolbar.

For the sake of readability (and controversy), I'm going to label a society that is democratic with a strong rule of law "advanced", while a less-democratic society with a perceived weak government is "primitive".

In advanced societies, the average person cooperated with strangers for the greater good. When a freeloader is revealed, the average person was willing to give up a small amount of their own resources to ensure that the freeloader was punished.

In primitive societies, the average person was willing to free-load; if punished, the freeloader would "revenge punish" whoever chose to punish them previously.

After repeated plays, the net accumulation of resources was much higher in the advanced societies as freeloading was reined-in.

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