Emergence of multilevel selection in the prisoner's dilemma game on coevolving random networks

A. Szolnoki and M. Perc
New Journal of Physics 11, 093033, 2009.

We study the evolution of cooperation in the prisoner's dilemma game, whereby a coevolutionary rule is introduced that molds the random topology of the interaction network in two ways. First, existing links are deleted whenever a player adopts a new strategy or its degree exceeds a threshold value; second, new links are added randomly after a given number of game iterations. These coevolutionary processes correspond to the generic formation of new links and deletion of existing links that, especially in human societies, appear frequently as a consequence of ongoing socialization, change of lifestyle or death. Due to the counteraction of deletions and additions of links the initial heterogeneity of the interaction network is qualitatively preserved, and thus cannot be held responsible for the observed promotion of cooperation. Indeed, the coevolutionary rule evokes the spontaneous emergence of a powerful multilevel selection mechanism, which despite the sustained random topology of the evolving network, maintains cooperation across the whole span of defection temptation values.

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