In Fiji’s northwest corner, the residents of the Yasawa Islands do many nice things for their communities. They put on village feasts, plant yams for their chiefs, and make sizable donations to their local churches, to name a few of their altruistic acts.

But when Yasawans fail to give enough, “it’s open season,” says Joseph Henrich, an anthropologist at Emory University. Villagers punish selfishness by ripping out the offenders’ crops, breaking their pottery, and throwing water on them in the...


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