Evolution of norms without metanorms

  • Toshio Yamagishi
  • Nobuyuki Takahashi
Conference paper


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.


Central Authority Incentive Structure Social Dilemma Linkage Actor Cooperation Rate 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Axelrod, R. (1984). The evolution of cooperation. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  2. Heckathom, D.D. (1988). Collective sanctions and the creation of prisoner’s dilemma norms. American Journal of Sociology, 94, 535–562.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Heckathom, D.D. (1989). Collective action and the second order free rider problem. Rationality and Society, 1, 78–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Olson, M. (1965). The logic of collective action. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Yamagishi, T. (1986). The structural goal/expectation theory of cooperation in social dilemmas. In E.J. Lawler (Ed.), Advances in group processes, Vol. III (pp.51–87). Greenwich, Connecticut: JAI Press.Google Scholar
  6. Yamagishi, T. (1991). Social exchange and social dilemmas. In K. Seiyama & M. Umino (Eds.), The problem of social order and social dilemmas (pp.227–257). Tokyo: Harvest Press. (In Japanese)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin · Heidelberg 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Toshio Yamagishi
    • 1
  • Nobuyuki Takahashi
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Behavioral SciencesHokkaido UniversityJapan

Personalised recommendations