Nav: Home

How to get moral 'free-riders' to cooperate

July 06, 2016

A trustful moral judgment system of good or bad is the building block of cooperation in a large group. A rule of thumb for promoting cooperation is to help those who have a good reputation and not those who have a bad reputation. However, making trustful moral judgment requires time, effort and money. Therefore, this raises a crucial issue - the moral free riders who evade the cost associated with moral judgment (e.g. by not paying taxes for police and court) are better off than those who shoulder the cost. Recent years have seen game theoreticians considering voluntary reactive policing of the moral free riders, which is costly, too, and thus can be exploited by higher order moral free riders. This leads to an infinite regress of opportunities to free ride. The moral free rider problem has remained unsolved.

In this paper, Tatsuya Sasaki, Isamu Okada (Soka University, Tokyo) and Yutaka Nakai (Shibaura Institute of Technology, Saitama) have taken a different approach. The authors present a simple and broadly applicable solution that considers a pre-assessment of the moral free riders. Sasaki and his colleagues devise an extra assessment system that offers an option to contribute to a pool account of the moral cost in advance. This is aimed not only at funding but also at detecting and labelling those who are not willing to pay for justice prior to the social exchange. In social exchanges, the labelled individuals will be refused help. Through game-theory analysis, this study finds that pre-assessment leads to stabilizing a costly moral system and thus cooperation.

This has an important implication to contemporary issues. How good and bad are determined, in fact, varies among individuals with different moral standards. Sasaki and his colleagues show that the pre-assessment could be the common feature for sustaining the moral system, irrespective of its moral code. "Our findings suggest that different individuals may not agree on what justice is but may arrive at a consensus about how justice is maintained. The results of future work that investigates to what extent the pre-assessment affects moral diversity will be fascinating", says Sasaki.
-end-
Publication in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters: Sasaki T, Okada I, Nakai Y. 2016. Indirect reciprocity can overcome free-rider problems on costly moral assessment. Biology Letters 12: 20160341. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2016.0341

University of Vienna

Related Cooperation Articles:

Maternal and paternal cooperation
Researchers disprove the assumption that parents conflict with one another during a plant's embryonic development.
Evolution of cooperation through longer memory
When we make a decision about whether or not to cooperate with someone, we usually base our decision on past experiences.
Wise deliberation sustains cooperation
Giving people time to think about cooperating on a task can have a positive effect if they are big-picture thinkers, but if they tend to focus on their own, immediate experience, the time to think may make them less cooperative, University of Waterloo research has found.
Multilab replication project examines cooperation under time pressure
In 2012, a trio of psychological scientists reported research showing that people who made quick decisions under time pressure were more likely to cooperate than were people who were required to take longer in their deliberations.
Blood ties fuel cooperation among species, not survival instinct
A new Oxford University study has found that survival instinct does not influence species cooperative breeding decisions.
More order with less judgment: An optimal theory of the evolution of cooperation
A research team led by mathematician Tatsuya Sasaki from the University of Vienna presents a new optimal theory of the evolution of reputation-based cooperation.
Cooperation helps mammals survive in tough environments
New research suggests that cooperative breeding makes mammal species such as meerkats better suited to dry, harsh climates.
Music at work increases cooperation, teamwork
Cornell University researchers found that music can have important effects on the cooperative spirits of those exposed to music.
Chimpanzees choose cooperation over competition
Tasks that require chimpanzees to work together preferred five-fold, despite opportunities for competition, aggression and freeloading.
New insights into the evolution of cooperation in spatially structured populations
Researchers have analyzed a new mathematical model to investigate how a population's spatial structure affects the evolution of cooperation.

Related Cooperation Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...