Cooperation in evolving social networks

N. Hanaki, A. Peterhansl, P.S. Dodds, D.J. Watts
Management Science 53(7), 1036, 2007

We study the problem of cooperative behavior emerging in an environment where individual behaviors and interaction structures coevolve. Players not only learn which strategy to adopt by imitating the strategy of the best-performing player they observe, but also choose with whom they should interact by selectively creating and/or severing ties with other players based on a myopic cost-benefit comparison. We find that scalable cooperation—that is, high levels of cooperation in large populations—can be achieved in sparse networks, assuming that individuals are able to sever ties unilaterally and that new ties can only be created with the mutual consent of both parties. Detailed examination shows that there is an important trade-off between local reinforcement and global expansion in achieving cooperation in dynamic networks. As a result, networks in which ties are costly and local structure is largely absent tend to generate higher levels of cooperation than those in which ties are made easily and friends of friends interact with high probability, where the latter result contrasts strongly with the usual intuition.

Copyright © 2007 by INFORMS.

This paper in Management Science

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