Why People Punish Defectors. Weak Conformist Transmission can Stabilize Costly Enforcement of Norms in Cooperative Dilemmas
In this paper, we present a cultural evolutionary model in which norms for cooperation and punishment are acquired via two cognitive mechanisms: (1) payoff-biased transmission-a tendency to copy the most successful individual; and (2) conformist transmission-a tendency to copy the most frequent behavior in the population. We first show that if a finite number of punishment stages is permitted (e.g. two stages of punishment occur if some individuals punish people who fail to punish non-cooperators), then an arbitrarily small amount of conformist transmission will stabilize cooperative behavior by stabilizing punishment at some n -th stage. We then explain how, once cooperation is stabilized in one group, it may spread through a multi-group population via cultural group selection. Finally, once cooperation is prevalent, we show how prosocial genes favoring cooperation and punishment may invade in the wake of cultural group selection.