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Does Punishment Help Maintain Cooperation?

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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.