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:

Exploring a strategy that leads to mutual cooperation without non-cooperative actions
A research team led by Hitoshi Yamamoto from Rissho University analyzed which strategies would be effective in the prisoner's dilemma game, into which a new behavior of not participating in the game was introduced.
Sex for cooperation
To understand the origins of human sociality studying the social dynamics of our closest relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos, is important.
Migration can promote or inhibit cooperation between individuals
A new mathematical analysis suggests that migration can generate patterns in the spatial distribution of individuals that promote cooperation and allow populations to thrive, in spite of the threat of exploitation.
Cooperation among fishers can improve fish stock in coral reefs
Cooperation within a group of people is key to many successful endeavors, including scientific ones.
How the brain 'mentalizes' cooperation
Researchers identify a part of the brain that helps execute cooperative tasks.
More Cooperation News and Cooperation Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...