To him who gives shall be given

One mechanism for reinforcing cooperative behavior is based on indirect reciprocity

Life is selfish, says simplified the Darwinian theory of evolution. Truly altruistic behavior does not exist, nor does group selection, social cooperation among non-relatives "reward" is rejected by the hard representatives of the selfish gene. If help, then it must be a business for the giver as well.

Nevertheless, there is always cooperative behavior, even on the level of the simplest living beings, the bacteria. Whether cooperation can also be altruistic ultimately remains a philosophically questionable amption, because cooperative individuals may indirectly and along convoluted paths derive individual advantages from their behavior – or even just expect them. Often enough there are group-egoistic advantages for cooperating individuals, even if they are not related to each other and thus directly ensure the reproduction of their genes by the support of close relatives.

It has been shown that in simulations of games such as the Prisoner’s Dilemma, egoists can be mutually supportive if the game is played several times, there is at least a sufficiently high probability of a next game, and the players can develop a strategy by which they make their own behavior dependent on the behavior of the other (tit-for-tat). Here, solidarity or cooperation is insightful, but what if one’s behavior is not directly and relatively quickly rewarded/punished by one’s teammates?

Claus Wedekind and Manfred Milinski of the University of Bern, as they describe in Cooperation Through Image Scoring in Humans, have tried to investigate in an experiment what advantage cooperative behavior could bring when no direct reciprocity is given. Why, then, could coarseness and cooperation have evolved in evolution, when everyone is supposed to be fighting tooth and nail to get their way and to make their advantages stronger? Psychologists ame that indirect reciprocity can also reward cooperative behavior and thus make it stronger: "If I observe you giving money to a beggar", explains Weekind the theory of indirect reciprocity, "then this theory predicts that I will be more likely to give you something at a later time when you are in need because I have seen that you have been permissive to others." So the thesis is that over "Image Scoring", how an individual is perceived by a group, cooperative behavior can be strengthened.

At least in one experiment 80 test persons confirmed the thesis that one is better off with rude behavior, because one gets more back oneself, if the others know that one has been rude. The game essentially consisted of the test subjects being able to give virtual francs to other players who, however, did not have the opportunity to show direct gratitude to the donors. Since the players, who were not informed about the intention of the experiment, could not know later who had given them something, since the players were identified only by numbers, the only information was to know that and how often someone had already given something or nothing to others. And whoever gave the most, probably got the most as well.

Apparently, people find it nice to receive gifts from others, so they reward those who give a lot, in turn, by being rude to the rude themselves. The subjects have thus confirmed the thesis that indirect reciprocity, i.e., the.h. a detour egoism, behavior can pragen. One gives therefore not only to the one with whom one is related or from whom one can expect that he gives something directly back to one, but also to the one from whom one knows that he himself is rude. Similar results have also been obtained by Martin A. Nowak and Karl Sigmund came in Shrewd Investments.

However, the prerequisite for the rewarding of the coarse-tongued, who were able to accumulate the most virtual francs in the experiment, is that the others must also know that and how often one has given something. The game works similarly to the iterated dilemma situations, only in manageable and permanent groups or through quite artificial identities. Basically, the experiment tells us that the coarse-minded person in a community fares best, who is best able to present his good deeds to the public – and that a clever egoist occasionally has to think in the long term and may well come to his advantage even if he is not immediately rewarded.

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