Cooperative behaviour on networks

Prisoner’s Dilemma games have become a well-established paradigm for studying the mechanisms by which cooperative behaviour may evolve in societies consisting of selfish individuals. Recent research has focussed on the effect of spatial and connectivity structure in promoting the emergence of cooperation in scenarios where individuals play games with their neighbors, using simple `memoryless’ rules to decide their choice of strategy in repeated games. While heterogeneity and structural features such as clustering have been seen to lead to reasonable levels of cooperation in very restricted settings, no conditions on network structure have been established which robustly ensure the emergence of cooperation in a manner which is not overly sensitive to parameters such as network size, average degree, or the initial proportion of cooperating individuals. Here we consider a natural random network model, with parameters which allow us to vary the level of `community’ structure in the network, as well as the number of high degree hub nodes. We investigate the effect of varying these structural features and show that, for appropriate choices of these parameters, cooperative behaviour does now emerge in a truly robust fashion and to a previously unprecedented degree. The implication is that cooperation (as modelled here by Prisoner’s Dilemma games) can become the social norm in societal structures divided into smaller communities, and in which hub nodes provide the majority of inter-community connections.

Establishing social cooperation: the role of hubs and community structure, with Cooper, Li, Pan and Yong, to appear in Network Science: pdf.

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