Reciprocal Altruism in a More Cooperative Economic Strategy

In sociological and epistemic research concerning the efficacy of economic and organizational strategies, it has been explained that learned behaviors may become more stable but may also remain flexible enough to change. This would especially be so, if environmental features are modified and teams then used “learned reinforcement signals” for measuring the individual performance of each agent. This measure can be considered an improvement, because it is according to the inclusive fitness of individual agents acting in altruism, that more altruistic individuals must, sooner or later, receive benefits to the lives of their kin and perhaps to their own reproductive success also.

However, should each agent instead have only information about its individual performance, none of the models for cooperative economic strategy will efficiently solve the stability-optimality dilemma that we find with altruistic behaviors. Therefore, it has been found that the stabilization of cooperation will require the substitution of altruistic behaviors by reciprocal ones.

People often do care for the well-being of others, and this may have important economic consequences. However, economic theory usually dictates that agents are considerably more self-interested and rational. However, experimental literature suggests that agents are better characterized as having interdependent preferences and being concerned and involved about the well-being and payoffs of others.

In availability, access and value-sharing, sadly, we may see that free-riding incentives are a pervasive phenomenon in social life. Participation in collective action or in industrial disputes, collusion among firms in oligopolistic markets the prevention of negative environmental externalities, workers’ effort choices under team-based compensation schemes or the exploitation of a common resource are typical examples.

However, one key to the understanding of cooperation problems is again the interaction between selfish individuals and individuals with other-regarding preferences. The absence of structured cooperation norms will inevitably manifest itself as low-offers in the ultimatum game.

Depending on the strategic environment, the more selfish actors may induce actors with higher other-regarding preferences to behave as if completely selfish, but, to some surprise, the converse is also often true: actors with other-regarding preferences induce selfish actors to change their behavior in fundamental ways. Notwithstanding, in order to fully understand the interaction between selfish and non-selfish actors, social scientists need rigorous formal models of other-regarding preferences.


__Cox, J. C., Sadiraj, K., & Sadiraj, V. (2001). Trust, Fear, Reciprocity, and Altruism. University of Arizona, Mimeo.

__Fehr, E., & Schmidt, K. M. (2006). The economics of fairness, reciprocity and altruism–experimental evidence and new theories. ‘Handbook of the Economics of Giving, Altruism and Reciprocity,‘ 1, 615-691.

__Zamora, J., Millán, J. R., & Murciano, A. (1998). Learning and stabilization of altruistic behaviors in multi-agent systems by reciprocity. Biological Cybernetics, 78(3), 197.

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2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Altruism is a myth, we all act in such a way as to maximize our own self-interests. However that doesn’t mean that we act in opposition to the self-interests of others. Businesses which best meet the needs of others are those which are the most financially successful.

    However, that is not the only way in which we meet the needs of others while meeting our own self-interests. Adam Smith wrote: “How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.”

    God has placed in our hearts the desire to help others to the extent that we are happier when giving service. That service meets our self-interest more than any alternative use of those resources.

    I have long maintained that love is when someone else’s happiness is necessary for our own happiness.

    We are all self-interested, but those who love our neighbors find the greatest happiness in bringing happiness to others.

    1. Enlightened self-interests tells us that the more we apply our will to Give, and really put in the effort, we will be happier. It is like one who wakes to everlasting life instead of shame and everlasting contempt. The light can only fill the vessels ready to receive.

      This post is an emphesis to the importance that our greed become inverted from wanting to receive to wanting to share, what you said, inasmuch.

      Thanks for the comment.

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