When agreement-accepting free-riders are a necessary evil for the evolution of cooperation

Luis A. Martinez-Vaquero, The Anh Han, Luís Moniz Pereira, Tom Lenaerts

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    Agreements and commitments have provided a novel mechanism to promote cooperation in social dilemmas in both one-shot and repeated games. Individuals requesting others to commit to cooperate (proposers) incur a cost, while their co-players are not necessarily required to pay any, allowing them to free-ride on the proposal investment cost (acceptors). Although there is a clear complementarity in these behaviours, no dynamic evidence is currently available that proves that they coexist in different forms of commitment creation. Using a stochastic evolutionary model allowing for mixed population states, we identify non-trivial roles of acceptors as well as the importance of intention recognition in commitments. In the one-shot prisoner’s dilemma, alliances between proposers and acceptors are necessary to isolate defectors when proposers do not know the acceptance intentions of the others. However, when the intentions are clear beforehand, the proposers can emerge by themselves. In repeated games with noise, the incapacity of proposers and acceptors to set up alliances makes the emergence of the first harder whenever the latter are present. As a result, acceptors will exploit proposers and take over the population when an apology-forgiveness mechanism with too low apology cost is introduced, and hence reduce the overall cooperation level.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)-
    JournalNature Scientific Reports
    Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2017


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