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Evolutionary game theory meets social science: Is there a unifying rule for human cooperation?
Author: Rosas, Alejandro
Journal: Journal of Theoretical Biology
Volume: 264
Year: 2010
Pages: 450—456

Evolutionary game theory has shown that human cooperation thrives in different types of social interactions with a PD structure. Models treat the cooperative strategies within the different frameworks as discrete entities and sometimes even as contenders. Whereas strong reciprocity was acclaimed as superior to classic reciprocity for its ability to defeat defectors in public goods games, recent experiments and simulations show that costly punishment fails to promote cooperation in the IR and DR games, where classic reciprocity succeeds. My aim is to show that cooperative strategies across frameworks are capable of a unified treatment, for they are governed by a common underlying rule or norm. An analysis of the reputation and action rules that govern some representative cooperative strategies both in models and in economic experiments confirms that the different frameworks share a conditional action rule and several reputation rules. The common conditional rule contains an option between costly punishment and withholding benefits that provides alternative enforcement methods against defectors. Depending on the framework, individuals can switch to the appropriate strategy and method of enforcement. The stability of human cooperation looks more promising if one mechanism controls successful strategies across frameworks.