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Punishment of egoistic behavior is not rewarded
Date:11/14/2011

ey are aware that they are being observed, egoists try to conceal their behaviour and pretend to act cooperatively. The observer, in turn, would like to prevent this and tries to conceal his or her attention. The researchers from Cologne and Pln discovered this interaction with the help of public goods games, in which the participants could benefit from egoistic behaviour. Their experiments showed that external observers prefer people who show solidarity as future game partners. Moreover, they are willing to pay to conceal their observation of another player. The players were also willing to pay to conceal egoistic behaviour. "A kind of 'arms race' thus arises between the two parties. They both want to keep their intentions secret from the other," says Manfred Milinski from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology.

Interestingly, observers seldom select people who punish others for egoistic behaviour. In effect, such sanctions are an expression of altruistic behaviour, as they are associated with personal costs incurred for the general good. "A person who observes other people with a view to finding cooperative partners would be expected to take punishment behaviour into account. The finding that people do not use this information raises important new research questions," says Bettina Rockenbach from the University of Cologne.

The researchers also observed that people prefer to hide the fact that they have punished others for egoistic behaviour. This is also surprising as punishments can be justified in terms of concern for the general good. Despite this, people apparently fear for their reputation if they punish others severely for egoistic behaviour. This finding is all the more unexpected as the tests showed that observers do not attach any importance to this information.

The researchers analysed three variants of a public goods game in their study. In all three games, the participants were accompanied by an observer who, afte
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Contact: Manfred Milinski
milinski@evolbio.mpg.de
49-452-276-3254
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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