Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This


Does Punishment Help Maintain Cooperation?

Photo by Alberto Cueto via LAist Featured Photos on Flickr
LAist relies on your reader support.
Your tax-deductible gift today powers our reporters and keeps us independent. We rely on you, our reader, not paywalls to stay funded because we believe important news and information should be freely accessible to all.

Humans are, more or less, a cooperative species. But how is cooperation maintained when the potential rewards for being a free-rider are so much greater than the rewards for cooperating? New research by UCLA anthropologist Robert Boyd suggests that cooperation in large groups is maintained by punishment.

Consider a small group of individuals: you and your friends. You all have personal relationships with each other, and therefore a simple "you help me, I'll help you" rule maintains cooperations fairly easily. You help your friends because you do not want to hurt them by not cooperating, and because you might need their help in the future.