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Journal Article

A unified framework of direct and indirect reciprocity


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., Chatterjee, K., Hilbe, C., & Nowak, M. A. (2021). A unified framework of direct and indirect reciprocity. Nature Human Behaviour, 5, 1292-1302. doi:10.1038/s41562-021-01114-8.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000A-9CBB-4
Direct and indirect reciprocity are key mechanisms for the evolution of cooperation. Direct reciprocity means that individuals use their own experience to decide whether to cooperate with another person. Indirect reciprocity means that they also consider the experiences of others. Although these two mechanisms are intertwined, they are typically studied in isolation. Here, we introduce a mathematical framework that allows us to explore both kinds of reciprocity simultaneously. We show that the well-known ‘generous tit-for-tat’ strategy of direct reciprocity has a natural analogue in indirect reciprocity, which we call ‘generous scoring’. Using an equilibrium analysis, we characterize under which conditions either of the two strategies can maintain cooperation. With simulations, we additionally explore which kind of reciprocity evolves when members of a population engage in social learning to adapt to their environment. Our results draw unexpected connections between direct and indirect reciprocity while highlighting important differences regarding their evolvability.