Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Social Contract Rule Violation

  • Daniel FarrellyEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_3444-1



When an individual in a social exchange with another “cheats,” by taking a benefit without incurring a cost and/or returning the favor to another.


One of the founding principles of Evolutionary Psychology is that the human mind consists of domain-specific modules that have been shaped by evolution. This modular view of the mind suggests that our ancestors were able to use these modules to help solve specific problems they encountered in their environment. Possibly the most well-known example of such a module is one dedicated to reasoning about social contracts (Cosmides 1989; Cosmides and Tooby 1992). In such contracts, there will be a rule about how an individual is expected to behave (e.g., “if you take a benefit from another individual, then you must return the favor in some form”), and when entering such an exchange each individual is aware of this. According to Cosmides and Tooby (1992), individuals who violate...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Brase, G. L., Osborne, E. R., & Brandner, J. L. (2019). General and specific personality traits as predictors of domain-specific and general conditional reasoning. Personality and Individual Differences, 137, 157–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Cosmides, L. (1989). The logic of social exchange: Has natural selection shaped how humans reason? Studies with the Wason selection task. Cognition, 31, 187–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cosmides, L., & Tooby, J. (1992). Cognitive adaptations for social exchange. In J. Barkow, L. Cosmides, & J. Tooby (Eds.), The adapted mind (pp. 163–228). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Fiddick, L. (2004). Domains of deontic reasoning: Resolving the discrepancy between the cognitive and moral reasoning literatures. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology A, Human Experimental Psychology, 57(3), 447–474.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Reis, D. L., Brackett, M. A., Shamosh, N. A., Kiehl, K. A., Salovey, P., & Gray, J. R. (2007). Emotional intelligence predicts individual differences in social exchange reasoning. NeuroImage, 35(3), 1385–1391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Stone, V. E., Cosmides, L., Tooby, J., Kroll, N., & Knight, R. T. (2002). Selective impairment of reasoning about social exchange in a patient with bilateral limbic system damage. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 99(17), 11531–11536.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Sugiyama, L., Tooby, J., & Cosmides, L. (2002). Cross-cultural evidence of cognitive adaptations for social exchange among the Shiwiar of Ecuadorian Amazonia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 99, 11537–11542.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Wason, P. (1966). Reasoning. In B. M. Foss (Ed.), New horizons in psychology. Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of WorcesterWorcesterUK

Section editors and affiliations

  • Kevin Kniffin
    • 1
  1. 1.Cornell UniversityIthacaUSA