Altruistic Punishment, Cultural Evolution – and Group Selection?

There’s a couple of new papers out of Tomasello’s Leipzig lab (Kaiser et al., 2012, Riedl et al.,2012) about chimpanzees’ (and bonobos’) failure to punish defectors in different experimental settings. Kaiser et al. discuss a new experiment confirming the group’s earlier finding (Jensen et al., 2007) that apes act as “rational maximisers” in an Ultimatum Game, i.e. that they accept unfair offers where humans frequently reject them despite a cost to themselves from doing so. Riedl et al. discuss the absence of third-party punishment (while showing that chimpanzees are able to discriminate, and selectively punish accordingly, unfair acts towards themselves). In both cases, the human behaviours that fail to be replicated in chimpanzees contribute to creating an environment where cooperation is more rewarding than defection.
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