Altruistic punishment in modern intentional communities
Evolutionists studying human cooperation disagree about how to best explain it. One view is that humans are predisposed to engage in costly cooperation and punishment of free-riders as a result of culture/gene coevolution via group selection. Alternatively, some researchers argue that context-specific cognitive mechanisms associated with traditional neo-Darwinian self- and kin-maximization models sufficiently explain all aspects of human cooperation and punishment. There has been a great deal of research testing predictions derived from both positions; still, researchers generally agree that more naturalistic data are needed to complement mathematical modeling and laboratory and field experiments. Most of these data have been obtained from small-scale forager and other societies, but modern intentional communities offer another productive source of information. This exploratory study describes context-specific patterns of punishment in 46 American intentional communities that cast doubt on the prediction that people are predisposed to punish free-riders in naturalistic interactions.
Keywords: cooperation, free-riding, intentional communities, punishment, self-maximization models, strong reciprocity
Published online: 09 February 2021
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