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Breeding Cooperation: Cultural Evolution in an Intergenerational Public Goods Experiment

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Lubell, Mark; Hillis, Vicken; McCabe, Carl
Conference: Capturing the Complexity of the Commons, North American Regional Meeting of the International Association for the Study of the Commons
Location: Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
Conf. Date: Sep. 30-Oct. 2
Date: 2010
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/6534
Sector: Social Organization
Subject(s): culture
public goods and bads
social dilemmas
Abstract: "This paper investigates the evolution of cooperation across multiple laboratory generations in an experimental public goods game. Theories of cultural evolution show how cooperative equlibria can be supported by the transmission of behavioral norms across generations. These types of cultural evolutionary processes are important for political science topics ranging from public policy to political participation. One of the best-established findings in the massive literature on experimental social dilemmas is that within-game communication increases cooperation. We find that it is possible to breed cooperation by selectively exposing later generations of subjects to cooperative messages from previous generations. We propose a number of potential reasons for the fact that between-generation communication (or advice) is at least as strong as within-game communication."

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