Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

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

Mechanisms to Detect and Punish Cheaters

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_935-1



Cheating violates shared social contracts. Individuals are sensitive to such violations and punish transgressors.


Cheating can be broadly defined as any action that violates a social contract (e.g., a shared social norm) and that is intended to obtain personal benefits while inflicting costs on other individuals who have not agreed upon these costs (Cosmides 1989). Cheating occurs in many different contexts – in intimate relationships or in social groups where mutual cooperation increases collective benefits, while cheating benefits only the defector. Consider, for instance, a dyadic interaction in which someone pretends to behave cooperatively, leading another to behave cooperatively as well to maximize collective benefits. In this situation, the first person can exploit the cooperative other by defecting, thus benefiting oneself but inflicting costs on the cooperator. In this regard,...


Social Contract Source Memory Cheat Behavior Mutual Cooperation Drinking Beer 
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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social PsychologyUlm UniversityUlmGermany
  2. 2.School of Business and EconomicsRWTH Aachen UniversityAachenGermany

Section editors and affiliations

  • Melissa McDonald
    • 1
  1. 1.Oakland UniversityRochesterUSA