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Cheater-Detection Mechanism

  • By: Elsa Ermer, Leda Cosmides & John Tooby
  • In: Encyclopedia of Social Psychology
  • Edited by: Roy F. Baumeister & Kathleen D. Vohs
  • Subject:Social Psychology (general)
Definition

The human brain can be thought of as a computer—an organic one, designed by natural selection to process information in adaptive ways. It is composed of many programs, each of which evolved because it was good at solving a problem of survival or reproduction faced by hunter-gatherer ancestors in the past. The cheaterdetection mechanism is one of these evolved programs. The adaptive problem it evolved to solve is detecting cheaters in situations involving social exchange.

Usage

Whenever you exchange favors, buy things (trading money for goods), or help someone who has helped you, you have engaged in social exchange. It is a way people cooperate for mutual benefit: I provide a benefit of some kind to you, and you reciprocate by providing a benefit to me, either ...

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