Supernatural punishment and individual social compliance across cultures

Pierrick Bourrat, Quentin D. Atkinson, Robin I.M. Dunbar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Cooperation for the public good is vulnerable to exploitation by free-riders because it always pays individuals to exploit the social contract for their own benefit. This problem can be resolved if free-riders are punished, but punishment is itself a public good subject to free-riding. The fear of supernatural punishment hypothesis (FSPH) proposes that belief in supernatural punishment might offer a solution to this problem by deflecting the cost of punishment onto supernatural forces and thereby incentivizing cooperation. FSPH is supported empirically by ethnographic data, but this work has so far focused on (1) institutional cooperative traits which may not reflect individual choices on how to behave in everyday social interactions and (2) threat of punishment from all-powerful moralizing high gods rather than other agents capable of supernatural punishment. Here, we consider the FSPH using variables which are linked to individual interaction and expand the number of variables measuring belief in different forms of supernatural punishment. Our findings do not fit these more general FSPH predictions. We suggest there may be something special about the link between moralizing high gods and institutional enforcement of cooperation that is not captured by these other variables.

LanguageEnglish
Pages119-134
Number of pages16
JournalReligion, Brain and Behavior
Volume1
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Punishment
Compliance
Fear
Interpersonal Relations
Contracts
Costs and Cost Analysis

Keywords

  • Cooperation
  • Prosociality
  • Religion
  • SCCS
  • Supernatural beliefs
  • Supernatural punishment

Cite this

Bourrat, Pierrick ; Atkinson, Quentin D. ; Dunbar, Robin I.M. / Supernatural punishment and individual social compliance across cultures. In: Religion, Brain and Behavior. 2011 ; Vol. 1, No. 2. pp. 119-134.
@article{83d411bf92a549f4b1e7d030303604b8,
title = "Supernatural punishment and individual social compliance across cultures",
abstract = "Cooperation for the public good is vulnerable to exploitation by free-riders because it always pays individuals to exploit the social contract for their own benefit. This problem can be resolved if free-riders are punished, but punishment is itself a public good subject to free-riding. The fear of supernatural punishment hypothesis (FSPH) proposes that belief in supernatural punishment might offer a solution to this problem by deflecting the cost of punishment onto supernatural forces and thereby incentivizing cooperation. FSPH is supported empirically by ethnographic data, but this work has so far focused on (1) institutional cooperative traits which may not reflect individual choices on how to behave in everyday social interactions and (2) threat of punishment from all-powerful moralizing high gods rather than other agents capable of supernatural punishment. Here, we consider the FSPH using variables which are linked to individual interaction and expand the number of variables measuring belief in different forms of supernatural punishment. Our findings do not fit these more general FSPH predictions. We suggest there may be something special about the link between moralizing high gods and institutional enforcement of cooperation that is not captured by these other variables.",
keywords = "Cooperation, Prosociality, Religion, SCCS, Supernatural beliefs, Supernatural punishment",
author = "Pierrick Bourrat and Atkinson, {Quentin D.} and Dunbar, {Robin I.M.}",
year = "2011",
doi = "10.1080/2153599X.2011.598325",
language = "English",
volume = "1",
pages = "119--134",
journal = "Religion, Brain and Behavior",
issn = "2153-599X",
publisher = "Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group",
number = "2",

}

Supernatural punishment and individual social compliance across cultures. / Bourrat, Pierrick; Atkinson, Quentin D.; Dunbar, Robin I.M.

In: Religion, Brain and Behavior, Vol. 1, No. 2, 2011, p. 119-134.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - Supernatural punishment and individual social compliance across cultures

AU - Bourrat, Pierrick

AU - Atkinson, Quentin D.

AU - Dunbar, Robin I.M.

PY - 2011

Y1 - 2011

N2 - Cooperation for the public good is vulnerable to exploitation by free-riders because it always pays individuals to exploit the social contract for their own benefit. This problem can be resolved if free-riders are punished, but punishment is itself a public good subject to free-riding. The fear of supernatural punishment hypothesis (FSPH) proposes that belief in supernatural punishment might offer a solution to this problem by deflecting the cost of punishment onto supernatural forces and thereby incentivizing cooperation. FSPH is supported empirically by ethnographic data, but this work has so far focused on (1) institutional cooperative traits which may not reflect individual choices on how to behave in everyday social interactions and (2) threat of punishment from all-powerful moralizing high gods rather than other agents capable of supernatural punishment. Here, we consider the FSPH using variables which are linked to individual interaction and expand the number of variables measuring belief in different forms of supernatural punishment. Our findings do not fit these more general FSPH predictions. We suggest there may be something special about the link between moralizing high gods and institutional enforcement of cooperation that is not captured by these other variables.

AB - Cooperation for the public good is vulnerable to exploitation by free-riders because it always pays individuals to exploit the social contract for their own benefit. This problem can be resolved if free-riders are punished, but punishment is itself a public good subject to free-riding. The fear of supernatural punishment hypothesis (FSPH) proposes that belief in supernatural punishment might offer a solution to this problem by deflecting the cost of punishment onto supernatural forces and thereby incentivizing cooperation. FSPH is supported empirically by ethnographic data, but this work has so far focused on (1) institutional cooperative traits which may not reflect individual choices on how to behave in everyday social interactions and (2) threat of punishment from all-powerful moralizing high gods rather than other agents capable of supernatural punishment. Here, we consider the FSPH using variables which are linked to individual interaction and expand the number of variables measuring belief in different forms of supernatural punishment. Our findings do not fit these more general FSPH predictions. We suggest there may be something special about the link between moralizing high gods and institutional enforcement of cooperation that is not captured by these other variables.

KW - Cooperation

KW - Prosociality

KW - Religion

KW - SCCS

KW - Supernatural beliefs

KW - Supernatural punishment

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85012520629&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1080/2153599X.2011.598325

DO - 10.1080/2153599X.2011.598325

M3 - Article

VL - 1

SP - 119

EP - 134

JO - Religion, Brain and Behavior

T2 - Religion, Brain and Behavior

JF - Religion, Brain and Behavior

SN - 2153-599X

IS - 2

ER -