Re: Fwd: The Urge to Punish Cheats: Not Just Human, but Selfless

From: Ray Recchia (
Date: Sun Feb 10 2002 - 16:10:52 GMT

  • Next message: Scott Chase: "noogenetics vs. memetics"

    Received: by id QAA06137 (8.6.9/5.3[ref] for from; Sun, 10 Feb 2002 16:21:15 GMT
    Message-Id: <>
    X-Mailer: QUALCOMM Windows Eudora Version 5.0.2
    Date: Sun, 10 Feb 2002 11:10:52 -0500
    From: Ray Recchia <>
    Subject: Re: Fwd: The Urge to Punish Cheats: Not Just Human, but  Selfless 
    In-Reply-To: <3C668C93.7721.91FEF4@localhost>
    References: <> <>
    Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"; format=flowed
    Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable
    Precedence: bulk

    At 03:06 PM 2/10/2002 +0100, Salice wrote:
    >On 10 Feb 2002, at 4:27, Ray Recchia wrote:
    > > As discussed in the article a similar game was used to study human gift
    > > giving and acceptance practices in 15 societies. There was a fair amount
    > > of culture variation but it was found that people would consistently give
    > > more than a pure logical analysis would suggest was correct.
    >What did this "pure logical analysis" consist of?

    Here's an excerpt. You'll have to read the article for the rest.

    Imagine that somebody offers you $100. All you have to do is agree with
    some other anonymous person on how to share the sum. The rules are strict.
    The two of you are in separate rooms and cannot exchange information. A
    coin toss decides which of you will propose how to share the money. Suppose
    that you are the proposer. You can make a single offer of how to split the
    sum, and the other person---the responder can say yes or no. The responder
    also knows the rules and the total amount of money at stake. If her answer
    is yes, the deal goes ahead. If her answer is no, neither of you gets
    anything. In both cases, the game is over and will not be repeated. What
    will you do?

    Instinctively, many people feel they should offer 50 percent, because such
    a division is “fair” and therefore likely to be accepted. More daring
    people, however, think they might get away with offering somewhat less than
    half of the sum.

    Before making a decision, you should ask yourself what you would do if you
    were the
    responder. The only thing you can do as the responder is say yes or no to a
    given amount of
    money. If the offer were 10 percent, would you take $10 and let someone
    walk away with
    $90, or would you rather have nothing at all? What if the offer were only 1
    percent? Isn’t
    $1 better than no dollars? And remember, haggling is strictly forbidden.
    Just one offer by
    the proposer: the responder can take it or leave it.

    So what will you offer?

    You may not he surprised to learn that two thirds of offers are between 40
    and 50 percent. Only four in 100 people offer less than 20 percent.
    Proposing such a small amount is risky, because it might be rejected. More
    than half of all responders reject offers that are less than 20 percent.
    But here is the puzzle: Why should anyone reject an offer as “too small”?
    The responder has just two choices: take what is offered or receive
    nothing. The only rational option for a selfish individual is to accept any
    offer. Even $1 is better than nothing. A selfish proposer who is sure that
    the responder is also selfish will therefore make the smallest possible
    offer and keep the rest. This game-theory analysis, which assumes that
    people are selfish and rational, tells you that the proposer should offer
    the smallest possible share and the responder should accept it. But this is
    not how most people play the game.

    The scenario just described, called the Ultimatum Game, belongs to a small
    but rapidly expanding field called experimental economics. A major part of
    economic theory deals with large-scale phenomena such as stock market
    fluctuations or gross national products. Yet economists are also
    increasingly fascinated by the most down-to-earth interactions the sharing
    and helping that goes on within office pools, households, families and
    groups of children. How does economic exchange work in the absence of
    explicit contracts and regulatory institutions?

    For a long time, theoretical economists postulated a being called Homo
    economicus- a rational individual relentlessly bent on maximizing a purely
    selfish reward. But the lesson from the Ultimatum Game and similar
    experiments is that teat people are a crossbreed of H. economicus and H.
    emoticus, a complicated hybrid species that can be ruled as much by emotion
    as by cold logic and selfishness. An interesting challenge is to understand
    how Darwinian evolution would produce creatures instilled with emotions and
    behaviors that do not immediately seem geared toward reaping the greatest
    benefit for individuals or their genes.

    Werner Güth of Humboldt University in Berlin devised the Ultimatum Game
    some 20 years ago. Experimenters subsequently studied it intensively in
    many places using diverse sums. The results proved remarkably robust.
    Behavior in the game did not appreciably depend on the players’ sex, age,
    schooling or numeracy. Moreover, the amount of money involved had
    surprisingly little effect on results. In Indonesia, for instance, the sum
    to be shared was as much as three times the subjects’ average monthly
    income-and still people indignantly refused offers that they deemed too
    small. Yet the range of players remained limited in some respects, because
    the studies primarily involved people in more developed countries, such as
    Western nations, China and Japan, and very often university students, at that

    Recently an ambitious cross-cultural study in 15 small-scale societies on
    four continents showed that there were, after all, sizable differences in
    the way some people play the Ultimatum Game. Within the Machiguenga tribe
    in the Amazon, the mean offer was considerably lower than in typical
    Western-type civilizations (26 instead of 45 percent). Conversely, many
    members of the Au tribe in Papua New Guinea offered more than half the pie.
    Cultural traditions in gift giving, and the strong obligations that result
    from accepting a gift, play a major role among some tribes, such as the Au.
    Indeed, the Au tended to reject excessively generous offers as well as
    miserly ones. Yet despite these cultural variations, the outcome was always
    far from what rational analysis would dictate for selfish players. In
    striking contrast to what self income maximizers out to do, most people all
    over the world place a high value on fair outcomes.

    ===============================This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Sun Feb 10 2002 - 16:36:33 GMT