Antisocial pool rewarding does not deter public cooperation.

Research paper by Attila A Szolnoki, Matjaž M Perc

Indexed on: 25 Sep '15Published on: 25 Sep '15Published in: Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society


Rewarding cooperation is in many ways expected behaviour from social players. However, strategies that promote antisocial behaviour are also surprisingly common, not just in human societies, but also among eusocial insects and bacteria. Examples include sanctioning of individuals who behave prosocially, or rewarding of free-riders who do not contribute to collective enterprises. We therefore study the public goods game with antisocial and prosocial pool rewarding in order to determine the potential negative consequences on the effectiveness of positive incentives to promote cooperation. Contrary to a naive expectation, we show that the ability of defectors to distribute rewards to their like does not deter public cooperation as long as cooperators are able to do the same. Even in the presence of antisocial rewarding, the spatial selection for cooperation in evolutionary social dilemmas is enhanced. Since the administration of rewards to either strategy requires a considerable degree of aggregation, cooperators can enjoy the benefits of their prosocial contributions as well as the corresponding rewards. Defectors when aggregated, on the other hand, can enjoy antisocial rewards, but due to their lack of contributions to the public good they ultimately succumb to their inherent inability to secure a sustainable future. Strategies that facilitate the aggregation of akin players, even if they seek to promote antisocial behaviour, thus always enhance the long-term benefits of cooperation.