Rationally Irrational? The Ecologies and Economics of Honor

Dov Cohen, Ivan Hernandez, Karl Gruschow, Andrzej Nowak, Michele J. Gelfand, Wojciech Borkowski

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


A commitment to honor is a commitment to irrationality—at least in the short-run—because it involves defending one’s honor, regardless of stakes or cost. Yet, circumstances giving rise to honor cultures—lawless environments, portable (easy-to-steal) wealth—create milieus where people must appear tough to deter predators. Thus, what seems irrational in the short-run may be rational in the long-run. This chapter describes three agent-based models exploring when an honor stance is advantageous and examining population dynamics of strategies in the environment. Models track empirical observations well. Further, models highlight: how prosocial reciprocity (not just vengeance) is crucial for honor to thrive; how positive and negative reciprocity become correlated over time in honor cultures; the rise of a strategy opposite to honor and how honor and its opposite exist symbiotically; how evolution cannot be outsmarted but can be “outdumbed”; cycling of strategies’ popularity; and Child × Environment interactions producing drift.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSocio-Economic Environment and Human Psychology
Subtitle of host publicationSocial, Ecological, and Cultural Perspectives
EditorsAyse K Üskül, Shigehiro Oishi
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages26
ISBN (Print)9780190492908
StatePublished - Mar 22 2018


  • honor
  • agent-based model
  • commitment
  • culture
  • negative reciprocity
  • prosocial reciprocity
  • environment
  • population dynamics
  • evolution
  • rationality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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