Coercion and the Emergence of Cooperation

One of the major challenges for the theory of natural selection is to explain the evolution of cooperation. Such cooperation exists at many levels, among self-replicating molecules, cells, individuals or societies. Coercion is a major factor promoting the collaboration of competing individuals; policing and sanctioning are widespread in human and insect societies, and can also be found in other biological communities. But sanctioning exploiters is costly. How can such ‘spiteful’ behaviour emerge? In this talk, a variety of deterministic and stochastic models for the emergence of costly punishment is discussed. Remarkably, the evolutionary dynamics of finite populations shows such behaviour can emerge much more easily if the joint effort is optional, rather than compulsory.

Karl Sigmund, University of Vienna, Austria



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