[FoRK] Evolution and the Capacity for Commitment

jbone at place.org jbone at place.org
Wed Mar 10 15:26:16 PST 2004

Yet another good reason for stateless / atomic "transactions" on a 
social dimension.  Commitment's a non-issue when you simply publish / 
pursue a (more or less) tit-for-tat strategy.  It's all these complex 
"expectations" attendant to commitment --- and implied or assumed 
commitments --- that cause problems. ;-)

via >Htech.


Begin forwarded message:

> Reputations become important predictors of behavior, and people begin
> spending vast amounts of effort to convince others that they will
> fulfill their promises and threats.
> One way to convince others of one's credibility in a commitment is
> to give up options in order to change the incentives in a situation.
> Others observe that compliance is now in the person's interests, and
> change their expectations and behavior accordingly. ...Not all
> commitments, however, are
> backed by such tangible incentives. As Frank and Hirshleifer argue
> (Hirshleifer 1987; Frank 1988), people also can convince others that
> they will keep their promises by emotional displays that testify to
> their irrationality. Such commitments give rise to profound paradoxes.
> In order to influence others an individual must convince people
> that he or she will act in ways that are not in his or her interests.
> Sometimes it is possible to reap the benefits of this influence
> without having to fulfill the commitment....More
> often, however, convincing others requires fulfilling the commitment
> to some degree. ...Also, once commitment
> strategies are widespread, reputation becomes so valuable that
> maintaining it requires fulfilling some commitments irrespective of
> the effects...Before you know it, commitments
> lead people to do all kinds of things they would rather not do,
> whether this means carrying out spiteful threats or helping others
> who will never be able to reciprocate. Social life becomes rich and
> complex. Foresight and empathy become essential tools for social
> survival.
> In a world where commitments influence behavior a workable
> theory of mind becomes more useful than a sharp stone axe.
> http://www-personal.umich.edu/~nesse/Articles/CommitmentIntroChap.pdf
> 44pages
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