Combining evolutionary game theory and network theory to analyze human cooperation patterns

Marialisa Scatà, Alessandro Di Stefano, Aurelio La Corte, Pietro Liò, Emanuele Catania, Ermanno Guardo, Salvatore Pagano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


As natural systems continuously evolve, the human cooperation dilemma represents an increasingly more challenging question. Humans cooperate in natural and social systems, but how it happens and what are the mechanisms which rule the emergence of cooperation, represent an open and fascinating issue. In this work, we investigate the evolution of cooperation through the analysis of the evolutionary dynamics of behaviours within the social network, where nodes can choose to cooperate or defect following the classical social dilemmas represented by Prisoner's Dilemma and Snowdrift games. To this aim, we introduce a sociological concept and statistical estimator, "Critical Mass", to detect the minimum initial seed of cooperators able to trigger the diffusion process, and the centrality measure to select within the social network. Selecting different spatial configurations of the Critical Mass nodes, we highlight how the emergence of cooperation can be influenced by this spatial choice of the initial core in the network. Moreover, we target to shed light how the concept of homophily, a social shaping factor for which "birds of a feather flock together", can affect the evolutionary process. Our findings show that homophily allows speeding up the diffusion process and make quicker the convergence towards human cooperation, while centrality measure and thus the Critical Mass selection, play a key role in the evolution showing how the spatial configurations can create some hidden patterns, partially counterbalancing the impact of homophily.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-24
Number of pages8
JournalChaos, Solitons and Fractals
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes


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