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Large-scale cooperation driven by reputation, not fear of divine punishment

Ge, E; Chen, Y; Wu, J; Mace, R; (2019) Large-scale cooperation driven by reputation, not fear of divine punishment. Royal Society Open Science , 6 (8) , Article 190991. 10.1098/rsos.190991. Green open access

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Abstract

Reputational considerations favour cooperation and thus we expect less cooperation in larger communities where people are less well known to each other. Some argue that institutions are, therefore, necessary to coordinate large-scale cooperation, including moralizing religions that promote cooperation through the fear of divine punishment. Here, we use community size as a proxy for reputational concerns, and test whether people in small, stable communities are more cooperative than people in large, less stable communities in both religious and non-religious contexts. We conducted a donation game on a large naturalistic sample of 501 people in 17 communities, with varying religions or none, ranging from small villages to large cities in northwestern China. We found that more money was donated by those in small, stable communities, where reputation should be more salient. Religious practice was also associated with higher donations, but fear of divine punishment was not. In a second game on the same sample, decisions were private, giving donors the opportunity to cheat. We found that donors to religious institutions were not less likely to cheat, and community size was not important in this game. Results from the donation game suggest donations to both religious and non-religious institutions are being motivated by reputational considerations, and results from both games suggest fear of divine punishment is not important. This chimes with other studies suggesting social benefits rather than fear of punishment may be the more salient motive for cooperative behaviour in real-world settings.

Type: Article
Title: Large-scale cooperation driven by reputation, not fear of divine punishment
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1098/rsos.190991
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.190991
Language: English
Additional information: © 2019 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.
Keywords: cooperation, religion, punishment, China, evolution, reputation
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10081260
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