Evolution of cooperation via (in)direct reciprocity under imperfect information

Schmid L. 2021. Evolution of cooperation via (in)direct reciprocity under imperfect information. IST Austria.

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Thesis | PhD | Published | English
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IST Austria Thesis
Indirect reciprocity in evolutionary game theory is a prominent mechanism for explaining the evolution of cooperation among unrelated individuals. In contrast to direct reciprocity, which is based on individuals meeting repeatedly, and conditionally cooperating by using their own experiences, indirect reciprocity is based on individuals’ reputations. If a player helps another, this increases the helper’s public standing, benefitting them in the future. This lets cooperation in the population emerge without individuals having to meet more than once. While the two modes of reciprocity are intertwined, they are difficult to compare. Thus, they are usually studied in isolation. Direct reciprocity can maintain cooperation with simple strategies, and is robust against noise even when players do not remember more than their partner’s last action. Meanwhile, indirect reciprocity requires its successful strategies, or social norms, to be more complex. Exhaustive search previously identified eight such norms, called the “leading eight”, which excel at maintaining cooperation. However, as the first result of this thesis, we show that the leading eight break down once we remove the fundamental assumption that information is synchronized and public, such that everyone agrees on reputations. Once we consider a more realistic scenario of imperfect information, where reputations are private, and individuals occasionally misinterpret or miss observations, the leading eight do not promote cooperation anymore. Instead, minor initial disagreements can proliferate, fragmenting populations into subgroups. In a next step, we consider ways to mitigate this issue. We first explore whether introducing “generosity” can stabilize cooperation when players use the leading eight strategies in noisy environments. This approach of modifying strategies to include probabilistic elements for coping with errors is known to work well in direct reciprocity. However, as we show here, it fails for the more complex norms of indirect reciprocity. Imperfect information still prevents cooperation from evolving. On the other hand, we succeeded to show in this thesis that modifying the leading eight to use “quantitative assessment”, i.e. tracking reputation scores on a scale beyond good and bad, and making overall judgments of others based on a threshold, is highly successful, even when noise increases in the environment. Cooperation can flourish when reputations are more nuanced, and players have a broader understanding what it means to be “good.” Finally, we present a single theoretical framework that unites the two modes of reciprocity despite their differences. Within this framework, we identify a novel simple and successful strategy for indirect reciprocity, which can cope with noisy environments and has an analogue in direct reciprocity. We can also analyze decision making when different sources of information are available. Our results help highlight that for sustaining cooperation, already the most simple rules of reciprocity can be sufficient.
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Schmid L. Evolution of cooperation via (in)direct reciprocity under imperfect information. 2021. doi:10.15479/at:ista:10293
Schmid, L. (2021). Evolution of cooperation via (in)direct reciprocity under imperfect information. IST Austria. https://doi.org/10.15479/at:ista:10293
Schmid, Laura. “Evolution of Cooperation via (in)Direct Reciprocity under Imperfect Information.” IST Austria, 2021. https://doi.org/10.15479/at:ista:10293.
L. Schmid, “Evolution of cooperation via (in)direct reciprocity under imperfect information,” IST Austria, 2021.
Schmid L. 2021. Evolution of cooperation via (in)direct reciprocity under imperfect information. IST Austria.
Schmid, Laura. Evolution of Cooperation via (in)Direct Reciprocity under Imperfect Information. IST Austria, 2021, doi:10.15479/at:ista:10293.
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