Cooperation and the emergence of role differentiation in the dynamics of social networks

V.M. Eguíluz, M.G. Zimmermann, C.J. Cela‐Conde, and M. San Miguel
American Journal of Sociology 110(4), 977–1008, 2005.

By means of extensive computer simulations, the authors consider the entangled coevolution of actions and social structure in a new version of a spatial Prisoner’s Dilemma model that naturally gives way to a process of social differentiation. Diverse social roles emerge from the dynamics of the system: leaders are individuals getting a large payoff who are imitated by a considerable fraction of the population, conformists are unsatisfied cooperative agents that keep cooperating, and exploiters are defectors with a payoff larger than the average one obtained by cooperators. The dynamics generate a social network that can have the topology of a small world network. The network has a strong hierarchical structure in which the leaders play an essential role in sustaining a highly cooperative stable regime. But disruptions affecting leaders produce social crises described as dynamical cascades that propagate through the network.

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