Evolution of norms without metanorms
A social dilemma can be resolved if group members sanction each other’s choices to defect. However, the provision of mutual sanctioning involves another social dilemma (i.e., a second-order dilemma), in which non-sanctioning is the dominant choice. Based on a series of computer simulations, Axelrod (1986) concluded that this second-order social dilemma can be resolved by metanorms (i.e., sanctioning the non-sanctioners). An alternative interpretation of Axelrod’s simulation results is proposed and tested through a series of computer simulations. Specifically, it is shown that the evolution of norms (which entail mutual sanctioning) does not require metanorms (i.e., sanctioning the non-sanctioners) insofar as the decisions to cooperate and the decisions to sanction are linked (i.e., cooperators punish defectors, and defectors do not punish other defectors). Furthermore, the linkage between these two types of decisions itself is shown to emerge through an “evolutionary” process.
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