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Evolution, Exchange and Coordination: Implications for Organizational Communication
Unformatted Document Text:  Evolution, Exchange and Coordination 9 “selection may act to create physiological or psychological mechanisms designed to deliver benefits even to non-relatives, provided that the delivery of such benefits acts, with sufficient probability, to cause reciprocal benefits to be delivered in return” (Cosmides & Tooby, 1992. p. 169). Further, the gains in trade must produce reproductive payoffs for both parties that are higher than the costs to each of providing a benefit to the other party. Under these circumstances, those cooperating with others will out- reproduce those with no such design. This second type of altruism is common among many animal species 7 . That reciprocation between unrelated humans would have been selected for during humans’ EEA should come as no surprise. Pressure for its selection in humans would have come from the sorts of problems our ancestors faced. Threat from predation or from other hominids would have favored cooperation (vs. competition) with others, as would the unpredictability of securing resources needed for everyday subsistence (e.g., food, shelter). Clearly, sharing disposable resources (e.g., nourishment, time to assist with those sick or wounded, risking self to defend the group against attack) has the advantage of creating IOUs with other clan members that can be collected during less auspicious times (Trivers, 1971). Yet, reciprocal altruism can only develop as an ‘evolutionary stable strategy’ (Axelrod & Hamilton, 1981) if it is resistant to other, seemingly ‘fitter’ mutant strategies, like defection or exploitation. After all, reproductive benefits can only accrue for the initiator of an altruistic act if the exchange partner reciprocates. A strategy involving defection from reciprocation would appear to bring a greater reproductive benefit to the defector, given the elimination of the exchange cost for that party. Notwithstanding, evolutionary biologists have also explained that while reciprocal altruism could not have developed as an adaptation in single-encounter instances, under conditions of repeated encounters and mutual interdependence, cooperation would likely have taken hold among humans (Axelrod & Hamilton, 1981). And, this actually describes the EEA of all primates. The relatively long life of hominids, low geographic dispersal of the species during its EEA, and common threat to survival would have assured repeated encounters with same neighbors, and the development of intra-species interdependencies (Kiyonari, Tanida, & Yamagushi, 2000). Using the Prisoner’s Dilemma game to explore the permutations of reciprocation/defection strategies, scholars have demonstrated through computer simulation tournaments that a simple TIT for TAT (i.e., repay in kind) strategy is more robust over time (i.e., multiple rounds) than other exchange combinations. This first-to-cooperate, first-to- retaliate, first-to-forgive strategy is successful precisely because it minimizes the costs associated with losing in an initial exchange with a defector, while capitalizing on the potential gains from systematic cooperation. Axelrod and Hamilton (1981) are quick to point out though, that while a robust solution to the problem of defection in a simulated computer environment, as a design, TIT for TAT requires a

Authors: Teboul, JC. Bruno. and Cole, Tim.
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Evolution, Exchange and Coordination
9
“selection may act to create physiological or psychological mechanisms designed to deliver benefits even
to non-relatives, provided that the delivery of such benefits acts, with sufficient probability, to cause
reciprocal benefits to be delivered in return” (Cosmides & Tooby, 1992. p. 169). Further, the gains in
trade must produce reproductive payoffs for both parties that are higher than the costs to each of
providing a benefit to the other party. Under these circumstances, those cooperating with others will out-
reproduce those with no such design.
This second type of altruism is common among many animal species
7
. That reciprocation
between unrelated humans would have been selected for during humans’ EEA should come as no
surprise. Pressure for its selection in humans would have come from the sorts of problems our ancestors
faced. Threat from predation or from other hominids would have favored cooperation (vs. competition)
with others, as would the unpredictability of securing resources needed for everyday subsistence (e.g.,
food, shelter). Clearly, sharing disposable resources (e.g., nourishment, time to assist with those sick or
wounded, risking self to defend the group against attack) has the advantage of creating IOUs with other
clan members that can be collected during less auspicious times (Trivers, 1971).
Yet, reciprocal altruism can only develop as an ‘evolutionary stable strategy’ (Axelrod &
Hamilton, 1981) if it is resistant to other, seemingly ‘fitter’ mutant strategies, like defection or
exploitation. After all, reproductive benefits can only accrue for the initiator of an altruistic act if the
exchange partner reciprocates. A strategy involving defection from reciprocation would appear to bring a
greater reproductive benefit to the defector, given the elimination of the exchange cost for that party.
Notwithstanding, evolutionary biologists have also explained that while reciprocal altruism could not
have developed as an adaptation in single-encounter instances, under conditions of repeated encounters
and mutual interdependence, cooperation would likely have taken hold among humans (Axelrod &
Hamilton, 1981). And, this actually describes the EEA of all primates. The relatively long life of
hominids, low geographic dispersal of the species during its EEA, and common threat to survival would
have assured repeated encounters with same neighbors, and the development of intra-species
interdependencies (Kiyonari, Tanida, & Yamagushi, 2000). Using the Prisoner’s Dilemma game to
explore the permutations of reciprocation/defection strategies, scholars have demonstrated through
computer simulation tournaments that a simple TIT for TAT (i.e., repay in kind) strategy is more robust
over time (i.e., multiple rounds) than other exchange combinations. This first-to-cooperate, first-to-
retaliate, first-to-forgive strategy is successful precisely because it minimizes the costs associated with
losing in an initial exchange with a defector, while capitalizing on the potential gains from systematic
cooperation.
Axelrod and Hamilton (1981) are quick to point out though, that while a robust solution to the
problem of defection in a simulated computer environment, as a design, TIT for TAT requires a


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