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Sergey Gavrilets: Collective action and the internalization of social norms

  • Date: Oct 25, 2016
  • Time: 14:00 - 15:00
  • Speaker: Sergey Gavrilets from the University of Tennessee, USA
  • For more information, please check http://www.tiem.utk.edu/~gavrila/
  • Location: MPI Plön
  • Room: Lecture hall
  • Host: Arne Traulsen


Human behavior is strongly affected by culturally transmitted norms and values.
Certain norms are internalized, that is, acting according to a norm becomes an
end in itself rather than merely a tool in achieving certain goals or avoiding social
sanctions. Humans' capacity to internalize and follow norms likely evolved in our
ancestors to simplify solving certain challenges -- including social ones. Here I
theoretically study the evolutionary origins of the capacity to internalize norms.
I show that norm internalization evolves under a wide range of conditions simplifying
cooperation to a level when it becomes "instinctive". Norm internalization evolves
much easier and has much larger effects on behavior if groups promote peer
punishment of free-riders. Promoting only participation in collective actions is not
effective. Evolving norm internalization always increases individual payoffs in collective
actions aiming to overcome nature challenges but decreases them in conflicts with
other groups. Models also predict significant genetic variation in the ability to internalize
norms. Evolving the ability to internalize norms was a crucial step on the path to
large-scale human cooperation.

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