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Evolution of direct and indirect reciprocity

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Gilbert Roberts


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Indirect reciprocity (IR) occurs when individuals help those who help others. It is important as a potential explanation for why people might develop cooperative reputations. However, previous models of IR are based on the assumption that individuals never meet again. Yet humans and other animals often interact repeatedly within groups, thereby violating the fundamental basis of these models. Whenever re-meeting can occur, discriminating reciprocators can decide whether to help those who helped others (IR) or those who helped them (direct reciprocity, DR). Here I used simulation models to investigate the conditions in which we can expect the different forms of reciprocity to predominate. I show that IR through image scoring becomes unstable with respect to DR by experience scoring as the probability of re-meeting increases. However, using the standing strategy, which takes into account the context of observed defections, IR can be stable with respect to DR even when individuals interact with few partners many times. The findings are important in showing that IR cannot explain a concern for reputation in typical societies unless reputations provide as reliable a guide to cooperative behaviour as does experience.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Roberts G

Publication type: Article

Journal: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences

Year: 2008

Volume: 275

Issue: 1631

Pages: 173-179

ISSN (print): 0962-8452

ISSN (electronic): 1471-2954

Publisher: The Royal Society Publishing


DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2007.1134


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