Nav: Home

More order with less judgment: An optimal theory of the evolution of cooperation

February 07, 2017

Moral systems are key to distinguishing between "good" and "bad" and are essential to the establishment of social orders. For instance, a rule of thumb for maintaining cooperation within a sizable group is to help those who have a good reputation and avoid those who seem bad. However, the moral standard for what is good and what is bad is not necessarily unique and often diverges across societies.

"What moral standards best promote cooperation among those who are willing to freeload on others' efforts?" Sasaki asks. "There is no definitive consensus on the question, and it remains unclear even how those who refuse to help the bad should be assessed."

To address these issues, Tatsuya Sasaki collaborated with colleagues Isamu Okada from Soka University and Yutaka Nakai from the Shibaura Institute of Technology in Japan. These researchers adopted a new approach, one that is different from the traditional assessment rules that are based on compulsory moral assessment.

Their results unveil a new champion of moral assessment rules, referred to as "Staying". Sasaki and colleagues examined the Staying rule by applying the helping game of two persons (a mover and a receiver). They consider two different types for the person on the moving end, "freeloading" that is to refuse to help, whoever the opponent, and "cooperation" that is to help when the opponent has a good reputation or to refuse to help when the opponent has a bad reputation.

They define the moral assessment rule for "Staying", as follows. When the person on the receiving end has a good reputation, the Staying rule assesses the person on the moving end, who either helps or refuses to help, as good or bad, respectively. This is necessary to stabilize cooperation once it has been established.

In striking contrast to more traditional rules, "under Staying", if the potential receiver has a bad reputation, the reputation of the person who helps remains the same as in the prior assessment. In this case, a choice about whether or not to render aid to the potential receiver does not affect the reputation of the potential mover.

A game-theoretical analysis demonstrates - for the first time - that the Staying rule, in which the assessment system avoids making moral assessments in specific cases, is more effective in establishing cooperation as compared to traditional assessment rules. Indeed, under the Staying rule, good cooperators can proliferate no matter how many freeloaders surround them, so long as the error rate is sufficiently small.

This study suggests that the practice of avoiding moral assessments can be the best policy when assessing those who refuse to help ("punish") wrongdoers. "Reputation-seeking punishment, described as I'll punish your bad behavior to make me look good,' may not be the best way to subvert a population of freeloaders," says Sasaki.

This study has important implications for various contemporary issues, including the potential applications of artificial intelligence (AI) in terms of decision-making. "The results of future work that examines whether AI can learn to avoid making moral judgements will be fascinating," says Sasaki.
-end-
Publication in Scientific Reports: Sasaki T, Okada I, Nakai Y. 2017. The evolution of conditional moral assessment in indirect reciprocity Scientific Reports 7:41870. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep41870

University of Vienna

Related Cooperation Articles:

Maternal and paternal cooperation
Researchers disprove the assumption that parents conflict with one another during a plant's embryonic development.
Evolution of cooperation through longer memory
When we make a decision about whether or not to cooperate with someone, we usually base our decision on past experiences.
Wise deliberation sustains cooperation
Giving people time to think about cooperating on a task can have a positive effect if they are big-picture thinkers, but if they tend to focus on their own, immediate experience, the time to think may make them less cooperative, University of Waterloo research has found.
Multilab replication project examines cooperation under time pressure
In 2012, a trio of psychological scientists reported research showing that people who made quick decisions under time pressure were more likely to cooperate than were people who were required to take longer in their deliberations.
Blood ties fuel cooperation among species, not survival instinct
A new Oxford University study has found that survival instinct does not influence species cooperative breeding decisions.
More order with less judgment: An optimal theory of the evolution of cooperation
A research team led by mathematician Tatsuya Sasaki from the University of Vienna presents a new optimal theory of the evolution of reputation-based cooperation.
Cooperation helps mammals survive in tough environments
New research suggests that cooperative breeding makes mammal species such as meerkats better suited to dry, harsh climates.
Music at work increases cooperation, teamwork
Cornell University researchers found that music can have important effects on the cooperative spirits of those exposed to music.
Chimpanzees choose cooperation over competition
Tasks that require chimpanzees to work together preferred five-fold, despite opportunities for competition, aggression and freeloading.
New insights into the evolution of cooperation in spatially structured populations
Researchers have analyzed a new mathematical model to investigate how a population's spatial structure affects the evolution of cooperation.

Related Cooperation Reading:

The Evolution of Cooperation: Revised Edition
by Robert Axelrod (Author), Richard Dawkins (Foreword)

Stick and Stone
by Beth Ferry (Author), Tom Lichtenheld (Illustrator)

The Fractal Self: Science, Philosophy, and the Evolution of Human Cooperation
by John L. Culliney (Author), David Jones (Author)

Farmer Herman and the Flooding Barn: A story about 344 people working together to solve a big, big, big problem
by Jason Weber (Author)

Evolution Of Cooperation by Robert Axelrod (1984-04-15)
by Robert Axelrod (Author)

Structure of Decision: The Cognitive Maps of Political Elites (Princeton Legacy Library)
by Robert Axelrod (Editor)

Understanding Global Conflict and Cooperation: An Introduction to Theory and History (10th Edition)
by Joseph S. Nye Jr. (Author), David A. Welch (Author)

Team Challenges: 170+ Group Activities to Build Cooperation, Communication, and Creativity
by Kris Bordessa (Author)

Axis of Authoritarians: Implications of China-Russia Cooperation
by Richard J. Ellings (Author), Robert Sutter (Author), Angela Stent (Author), Charles E. Ziegler (Author), Richard Weitz (Author), Peter Mattis (Author), James B. Steinberg (Author), Richard J. Ellings (Editor), Robert Sutter (Editor)

The Complexity of Cooperation: Agent-Based Models of Competition and Collaboration
by Robert Axelrod (Author)

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Hacking The Law
We have a vision of justice as blind, impartial, and fair — but in reality, the law often fails those who need it most. This hour, TED speakers explore radical ways to change the legal system. Guests include lawyer and social justice advocate Robin Steinberg, animal rights lawyer Steven Wise, political activist Brett Hennig, and lawyer and social entrepreneur Vivek Maru.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#495 Earth Science in Space
Some worlds are made of sand. Some are made of water. Some are even made of salt. In science fiction and fantasy, planet can be made of whatever you want. But what does that mean for how the planets themselves work? When in doubt, throw an asteroid at it. This is a live show recorded at the 2018 Dragon Con in Atlanta Georgia. Featuring Travor Valle, Mika McKinnon, David Moscato, Scott Harris, and moderated by our own Bethany Brookshire. Note: The sound isn't as good as we'd hoped but we love the guests and the conversation and we wanted to...