Altruism, Punishment, Corruption, Multilevel Selection, Group Selection, Public Good, Hypocrisy
Altruism presents an evolutionary paradox, as altruistic individuals are good for the group yet vulnerable to exploitation by selfish individuals. One mechanism that can effectively curtail selfishness within groups is punishment. Here, we show in an evolutionary game-theoretical model that punishment can effectively evolve and maintain high levels of altruism in the population, yet not all punishment strategies were equally virtuous. Unlike typical models of social evolution, we explicitly altered the extent to which individuals vary in their power over others, such that powerful individuals can more readily punish and escape the punishment of others. Two primary findings emerged. Under large power asymmetries, a powerful selfish minority maintained altruism of the masses. In contrast, increased symmetry of power among individuals produced a more egalitarian society held together by altruism and punishment carried out by the collective. These extremes are consistent with the coercive nature of the powerful elites in social insects and egalitarian mechanisms of punishment in humans such as coalitional enforcement and gossip. Our overall findings provide insights into the importance of oversight, the consequences to changes in the power structure of social systems, and the roots of hypocrisy and corruption in human and nonhuman animal societies.
Eldakar, Omar T.; J. Oliver Kammeyer; Nikhil Nagabandi; and Andrew C. Gallup. 2018. "Hypocrisy and Corruption: How Disparities in Power Shape the Evolution of Social Control." Evolutionary Psychology 16, (2): 1-12. doi:10.1177/1474704918756993.