The narrow gap between norms and cooperative behaviour in a reindeer herding community
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionRoyal Society Open Science. 2018, 5 (171221), 10. 10.1098/rsos.171221
Cooperation evolves on social networks and is shaped, in part, by norms: beliefs and expectations about the behaviour of others or of oneself. Networks of cooperative social partners and associated norms are vital for pastoralists, such as Saami reindeer herders in northern Norway. However, little is known quantitatively about how norms structure pastoralists’ social networks or shape cooperation. Saami herders reported their social networks and participated in field experiments, allowing us to gauge the overlap between reported and emergent cooperation. We show that individuals’ perceptions of reciprocal cooperation within their social networks exceeded actual reciprocity, although both occurred frequently and were concentrated within herding groups. Herders with more extensive cooperation networks received more rewards in an economic game. Although herders overestimated reciprocal helping, cooperation in this community was still extensive, suggesting that perceived norms potentially allow network structures promoting cooperation to emerge and be maintained.