Alain Schläpfer is a Lecturer in Political Science and Economics and the Director of the Data Science track in Political Science. His research examines the evolution of cooperation among individuals and groups, with a particular emphasis on the role of reputational concerns. He also investigates the formation of preferences and of cultural norms, as well as their effects on behavior and long term outcomes. Alain's research has been published in journals in political science, economics and biology, and makes use of formal modelling, causal identification and computer simulations. Originally from Switzerland, Alain received his PhD from Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain..

Academic Appointments

  • Social Science Research Scholar, Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law

2023-24 Courses

All Publications

  • The emergence and selection of reputation systems that drive cooperative behaviour PROCEEDINGS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES Schlaepfer, A. 2018; 285 (1886)


    Reputational concerns are believed to play a crucial role in explaining cooperative behaviour among non-kin humans. Individuals cooperate to avoid a negative social image, if being branded as defector reduces pay-offs from future interactions. Similarly, individuals sanction defectors to gain a reputation as punisher, prompting future co-players to cooperate. But reputation can only effectively support cooperation if a sufficient number of individuals condition their strategies on their co-players' reputation, and if a sufficient number of group members are willing to record and transmit the relevant information about past actions. Using computer simulations, this paper argues that starting from a pool of non-cooperative individuals, a reputation system based on punishment is likely to emerge and to be the driver of the initial evolution of cooperative behaviour. However, once cooperation is established in a group, it will be sustained mainly through a reputation mechanism based on cooperative actions.

    View details for DOI 10.1098/rspb.2018.1508

    View details for Web of Science ID 000444626300015

    View details for PubMedID 30185638

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6158539