Monday, September 27, 2010

Indirect reciprocity

Direct reciprocity can best be captured by the principle “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” and is the driving force of a large part of chimpanzee social behaviour.

Indirect reciprocity can be summed up by the principle: “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch someone else’s” or “I scratch your back and someone else will scratch mine”.

There is little or no evidence of indirect reciprocity amongst chimpanzees. This should come as no surprise given the significant linguistic skills required to exhibit indirect reciprocity compared to direct reciprocity.

For example, if my act of kindness towards a stranger is witnessed by others, it can benefit my reputation only if they are able to go and tell their friends about it, an ability that is quite beyond chimpanzees.


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