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Impact of patient and impatient punishers of free-riders

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In collaboration with researchers from the University of Granada (Spain) and the Middlesex University Business School London (UK), a JRC scientist investigated the costly punishment of cheaters who do not or only insignificantly contribute to common public good. This punishment is seen to be a powerful mechanism for sustaining cooperation. Yet the motivations behind punishment are not wholly clear. Are there moral concerns driving the decision to punish a free-rider? Or is punishment only due to spite?

The study revealed two completly different types of punishers: a future-oriented cooperator who punishes free-riders for moral reasons and a present-oriented free-rider who punishes other free-riders in a spiteful, competitive manner. As a result, both high moral standards and base motives work together in sustaining human cooperation. 

Read more in:
A. M. Espin, P. Branas-Garza, B. Herrmann and J.F. Gamella, 'Patient and impatient punishers of free-riders', Proceedings of the Royal Society, doi: 10.1098/rspb.2012.2043 (2012). Published online before print October 17, 2012.

Photo: Symbolic image: queue-jumping. Copyright EU 2012.

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