MichaelCD - The Blog.

The thoughts of Michael Cadwallader. Coffee loving, history book reading, Cheshire man.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Quelle Surprise!

Reading the latest edition of New Scientist I came across this article. It's extremely relevant to those who believe in a strong society and community:

ACHIEVING Utopia might require a stick rather than a carrot. Punishment seems to be a necessary evil in the pursuit of a common good.

Participants in an investment game each received 20 tokens to invest over 30 successive rounds. Payments were made into a central fund and investors had to rely on the goodwill of others to swell the common fund. Players could choose between two groups: in one, they were able to punish those who did not contribute.

Although two-thirds of the 84 participants opted initially for the non-punishing group, players flocked to the punishing group when it became clear that returns were far better. The shift relied on a core group of about 15 per cent of the players who from the outset decided to punish freeloaders (Science, vol 312, p 108).

Bettina Rockenback of the University of Erfurt in Germany, who headed the research, says the work brings us closer to a general theory of human cooperation, and has important implications, because issues such as global climate change require people to act in the best interests of the group.


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