Cooperation as a transmitted cultural trait

Alberto Bisin, Giorgio Topa, Thierry Verdier

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    In this paper, we study an endogenous cultural selection mechanism for cooperative behavior in a setting where agents are randomly matched in a one-shot interaction Prisoner's Dilemma, and may or may not have complete information about their opponent's preferences. We locus on an endogenous socialization mechanism in which parents spend costly effort to transmit directly their trait to their offspring, taking into account the impact of (oblique) societal pressures on cultural transmission. For various ranges of parameter values, this mechanism generates a polymorphic population with a long-run presence of cooperative agents, even where replicator and indirect evolutionary mechanisms would bring about a monomorphic population with non-cooperation. Further, under some circumstances, the long-run fraction of cooperative agents is shown to be larger under incomplete than complete information.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)477-507
    Number of pages31
    JournalRationality and Society
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Nov 2004


    • Cooperation
    • Cultural transmission
    • Endogenous preferences
    • Evolutionary selection

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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