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Journal Article

The evolution of indirect reciprocity under action and assessment generosity


Hilbe,  Christian
Max Planck Research Group Dynamics of Social Behavior (Hilbe), Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Max Planck Society;

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Schmid, L., Shati, P., Hilbe, C., & Chatterjee, K. (2021). The evolution of indirect reciprocity under action and assessment generosity. Scientific Reports, 11: 17443. doi:10.1038/s41598-021-96932-1.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0009-2CBE-1
Indirect reciprocity is a mechanism for the evolution of cooperation based on social norms. This mechanism requires that individuals in a population observe and judge each other’s behaviors. Individuals with a good reputation are more likely to receive help from others. Previous work suggests that indirect reciprocity is only effective when all relevant information is reliable and publicly available. Otherwise, individuals may disagree on how to assess others, even if they all apply the same social norm. Such disagreements can lead to a breakdown of cooperation. Here we explore whether the predominantly studied ‘leading eight’ social norms of indirect reciprocity can be made more robust by equipping them with an element of generosity. To this end, we distinguish between two kinds of generosity. According to assessment generosity, individuals occasionally assign a good reputation to group members who would usually be regarded as bad. According to action generosity, individuals occasionally cooperate with group members with whom they would usually defect. Using individual-based simulations, we show that the two kinds of generosity have a very different effect on the resulting reputation dynamics. Assessment generosity tends to add to the overall noise and allows defectors to invade. In contrast, a limited amount of action generosity can be beneficial in a few cases. However, even when action generosity is beneficial, the respective simulations do not result in full cooperation. Our results suggest that while generosity can favor cooperation when individuals use the most simple strategies of reciprocity, it is disadvantageous when individuals use more complex social norms.