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Crime and punishment: The neurobiological roots of modern justice
Date:4/18/2012

ex with a kiss on each cheek") to universal standards that vary in strength in different cultures (such as "thou shalt not commit adultery") to universal norms that are so widely held that that they are codified into laws (such as "thou shalt not kill").

"Scientists have advanced several models to explain the widespread cooperation that is characteristic of human society, but these generally fail to explain the emergence of our large stable societies" said Marois.

One model holds that individuals will perform altruistic actions when they benefit his or her kin and increase the likelihood of transmitting genes that they share to future generations. However, it doesn't explain why individuals cooperate with people who do not share their genes.

"You scratch my back and I'll scratch your back" is the essence of another model called reciprocal altruism or direct reciprocity. It argues that when two people interact repeatedly they have a mutual self-interest in cooperating. Although this can explain cooperation among unrelated people, scientists have found that it only works in relatively small groups.

Similarly, theories of indirect reciprocity, which focus on the benefits an individual gains by maintaining a good reputation through altruistic behavior, cannot account for the widespread emergence of cooperation because the benefits that individuals accrue through one-shot altruistic interactions are negligible.

There is one class of models, however, that has been successful in explaining the maintenance of cooperation among genetically unrelated individuals. According to these strong reciprocity models, individuals will reward norm-followers or punish norm-violators even at a cost to themselves (altruistic punishment).

Strong reciprocity models, like the other models mentioned above, have primarily been developed to account for second-party interactions. While second-party interactions may prevail in non-human primate and
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Contact: David Salisbury
david.salisbury@vanderbilt.edu
615-343-6803
Vanderbilt University
Source:Eurekalert

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