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Strong reciprocity is an effective way to promote cooperation. This is especially true when one not only cooperates with cooperators and defects on defectors (second-party punishment) but even punishes those who defect on others (third-party, “altruistic” punishment). Some suggest we humans have a taste for such altruistic punishment and that this was important in the evolution of human cooperation. To assess this we need to look across a wide range of cultures. As part of a cross-cultural project, I played three experimental economics games with the Hadza, who are hunter-gatherers in Tanzania. The Hadza frequently engaged in second-party punishment but they rarely engaged in third-party punishment. Other small-scale societies engaged in less third-party punishment as well. I suggest third-party punishment only became more important in large, complex societies to solve more pressing collective-action problems.
KeywordsCooperation Experimental economics Hadza Hunter-gatherers Third-party punishment
I wish to thank Mathew Firestone and Msa Sapo for assistance in running the games. I also wish to thank COSTECH for permission to conduct research in Tanzania, as well as Professor Audax Mabulla, University of Dar es Salaam, for assistance, and the National Science Foundation for funding (grants 0136761 and 0242455). Finally, I am always grateful to the Hadza for their generous hospitality and tolerance.
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