Friday, 27 January 2012

What's wrong with indirect reciprocity?

My list of reasons why humans cooperate does not include a category commonly included by others (such as Martin Nowak and Karl Sigmund): indirect reciprocity.

What's wrong with the concept of indirect reciprocity?

I think it mixes two very different things together.

  • One is where a positive reputation results in cooperation - A is nice to B and then C is nice to A.
  • The other is where generosity is misplaced - A is nice to B and then B is nice to C.
The first is rational, the second is normally irrational - and is typically down to resource-limited cognition.

Indirect reciprocity is also a bit of an oxymoron. The word "reciprocity" doesn't really apply to indirect situations unless the benefits are eventually returned to from whence they came.

It is much better to put these two types of interactions in different categories. That's what I do - with the concepts of virtue signalling and overgeneralisation.

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