Cooperation in Social Dilemmas
published: Nov. 28, 2007, recorded: October 2007, views: 5125
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The emergence and maintenance of cooperative behavior that is beneficial to others but costly to the individual represents a major conundrum in evolutionary biology. Punishment represents an efficient mechanism to stabilize and maintain cooperation in social dilemmas and is ubiquitous in animal and human societies - ranging from toxin producing microorganisms to law enforcement institutions - but it remains unresolved how initially rare and costly punishment behavior can gain a foothold and spread through the population. In nature, animals and humans often carefully select their interaction partners or adjust their behavioral patterns in response to them. In the simplest case they simply refuse to participate in risky enterprises. Such voluntary participation in social dilemmas is an efficient mechanism to prevent deadlocks in states of mutual defection and thus represents a potent promoter of cooperation but fails to stabilize it. However, the combined efforts of punishment and volunteering may change the odds in favor of cooperation. Interestingly, even though the combined efforts fail in infinite populations they nevertheless provide an efficient mechanism to stabilize cooperation (and punishment) under the stochastic dynamics of finite populations with mutation and selection. Thus, the freedom to withdraw leads to prosocial coercion. This implements Hardin's principle: ``mutual coercion mutually [and voluntarily] agreed upon''.
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