Behavioral and Brain Sciences

In medio stat virtus: Theoretical and methodological extremes regarding reciprocity will not explain complex social behaviors

Claudia Civaia1 and Alan Langusa1

a1 SISSA/ISAS–International School for Advanced Studies, via Bonomea, 265, 34136 Trieste, Italy.


Guala contests the validity of strong reciprocity as a key element in shaping social behavior by contrasting evidence from experimental games to that of natural and historic data. He suggests that in order to understand the evolution of social behavior researchers should focus on natural data and weak reciprocity. We disagree with Guala's proposal to shift the focus of the study from one extreme of the spectrum (strong reciprocity) to the other extreme (weak reciprocity). We argue that the study of the evolution of social behavior must be comparative in nature, and we point out experimental evidence that shows that social behavior is not cooperation determined by a set of fixed factors. We argue for a model that sees social behavior as a dynamic interaction of genetic and environmental factors.