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Data from: Large-scale cooperation driven by reputation, not fear of divine punishment

Cite this dataset

Ge, Erhao; Chen, Yuan; Wu, Jiajia; Mace, Ruth (2019). Data from: Large-scale cooperation driven by reputation, not fear of divine punishment [Dataset]. Dryad.


Reputational considerations favour cooperation and thus we expect less cooperation in larger communities where people are less well-known to each other. Some argue that institutions are therefore necessary to co-ordinate large-scale cooperation, including moralizing religions that promote cooperation through the fear of divine punishment. Here, we use community size as a proxy for reputational concerns, and test whether people in small, stable communities are more cooperative than people in large, less stable communities in both religious and non-religious contexts. We conducted a donation game on a large naturalistic sample of 501 people in 17 communities, with varying religions or none, ranging from small villages to large cities in northwestern China. We found that more money was donated by those in small, stable communities, where reputation should be more salient. Religious practice was also associated with higher donations,but fear of divine punishment was not. In a second game on the same sample, decisions were private, giving donors the opportunity to cheat. We found that donors to religious institutions were not less likely to cheat, and community size was not important in this game. Results from the donation game suggest donations to both religious and non-religious institutions are being motivated by reputational considerations, and results from both games suggest fear of divine punishment is not important. This chimes with other studies suggesting social benefits rather than fear of punishment may be the more salient motive for cooperative behaviour in real world settings.

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