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      Via freedom to coercion: the emergence of costly punishment.

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          Abstract

          In human societies, cooperative behavior in joint enterprises is often enforced through institutions that impose sanctions on defectors. Many experiments on so-called public goods games have shown that in the absence of such institutions, individuals are willing to punish defectors, even at a cost to themselves. Theoretical models confirm that social norms prescribing the punishment of uncooperative behavior are stable-once established, they prevent dissident minorities from spreading. But how can such costly punishing behavior gain a foothold in the population? A surprisingly simple model shows that if individuals have the option to stand aside and abstain from the joint endeavor, this paves the way for the emergence and establishment of cooperative behavior based on the punishment of defectors. Paradoxically, the freedom to withdraw from the common enterprise leads to enforcement of social norms. Joint enterprises that are compulsory rather than voluntary are less likely to lead to cooperation.

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          Author and article information

          Journal
          Science
          Science (New York, N.Y.)
          American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
          1095-9203
          0036-8075
          Jun 29 2007
          : 316
          : 5833
          Affiliations
          [1 ] Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Department of Mathematics, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.
          Article
          316/5833/1905 NIHMS51712
          10.1126/science.1141588
          2430058
          17600218
          cef403c8-e19f-4aca-9a5f-bb02b0335161

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