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      Hidden altruism in a real-world setting

      Biology Letters

      The Royal Society

      cooperation, altruism, charity, reputation, anonymous

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          Concerns for reputation can promote cooperative behaviour. Individuals that behave cooperatively stand to benefit if they gain in influence, status or are more likely to be chosen as interaction partners by others. Most theoretical and empirical models of cooperation predict that image score will increase with cooperative contributions. Individuals are therefore expected to make higher contributions when observed by others and should opt to make contributions publicly rather than privately, particularly when contributions are higher than average. Here, however, I find the opposite effect. Using data from an online fundraising website, I show that donors are more likely to opt for anonymity when making extremely low and extremely high donations. Mid-range donations, on the other hand, are typically publicized. Recent work has shown that extremely generous individuals may be ostracized or punished by group members. The data presented here suggest that individuals may hide high donations to avoid these repercussions.

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          Most cited references 11

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          Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases.

           A Tversky,  D Kahneman (1974)
          This article described three heuristics that are employed in making judgements under uncertainty: (i) representativeness, which is usually employed when people are asked to judge the probability that an object or event A belongs to class or process B; (ii) availability of instances or scenarios, which is often employed when people are asked to assess the frequency of a class or the plausibility of a particular development; and (iii) adjustment from an anchor, which is usually employed in numerical prediction when a relevant value is available. These heuristics are highly economical and usually effective, but they lead to systematic and predictable errors. A better understanding of these heuristics and of the biases to which they lead could improve judgements and decisions in situations of uncertainty.
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            Five rules for the evolution of cooperation.

             Martin Nowak (2006)
            Cooperation is needed for evolution to construct new levels of organization. Genomes, cells, multicellular organisms, social insects, and human society are all based on cooperation. Cooperation means that selfish replicators forgo some of their reproductive potential to help one another. But natural selection implies competition and therefore opposes cooperation unless a specific mechanism is at work. Here I discuss five mechanisms for the evolution of cooperation: kin selection, direct reciprocity, indirect reciprocity, network reciprocity, and group selection. For each mechanism, a simple rule is derived that specifies whether natural selection can lead to cooperation.
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              Antisocial punishment across societies.

              We document the widespread existence of antisocial punishment, that is, the sanctioning of people who behave prosocially. Our evidence comes from public goods experiments that we conducted in 16 comparable participant pools around the world. However, there is a huge cross-societal variation. Some participant pools punished the high contributors as much as they punished the low contributors, whereas in others people only punished low contributors. In some participant pools, antisocial punishment was strong enough to remove the cooperation-enhancing effect of punishment. We also show that weak norms of civic cooperation and the weakness of the rule of law in a country are significant predictors of antisocial punishment. Our results show that punishment opportunities are socially beneficial only if complemented by strong social norms of cooperation.

                Author and article information

                Biol Lett
                Biol. Lett
                Biology Letters
                The Royal Society
                January 2014
                January 2014
                : 10
                : 1
                Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, University College London , London WC1E 6BT, UK
                Author notes

                © 2014 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Evolutionary Biology
                Custom metadata
                January, 2014

                Life sciences

                charity, anonymous, cooperation, reputation, altruism


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