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J Theor Biol. 2003 Dec 7;225(3):285-92.

Indirect reciprocity among imperfect individuals.

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1
Department of Zoology, Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel. mafish@post.tau.ac.il

Abstract

Reciprocal cooperation occurs when the overall benefits of receiving help exceed the costs of donating help (Q. Rev. Biol. 46 (197) 35). That is, individuals in good condition--for whom the pertinent costs are relatively small; donate help in order to secure reciprocity in their hour of need--when the benefits of receiving a donation are large. Consequently, reciprocity occurs among individuals who occasionally need help. In particular, such individuals will be unable to help others, no matter how deserving, when in need of help themselves--involuntary defection. This paper deals with the effects of involuntary defection in the context of a specific model of indirect reciprocity (i.e. reciprocal altruism that is directed toward all the cooperative members of the community) due to Nowak and Sigmund (J. Theor. Biol.194 (1998b) 561: Sections 2-4). In that model, the authors formulate the decision rules for conditional cooperation in the context of indirect reciprocity, and demonstrate that these decision rules can account for a long-term persistence of cooperation. Here we show that addition of involuntary defection to the decision rules formulated by Nowak and Sigmund results in indirect reciprocity that is evolutionary stable under appropriate conditions. Moreover, for a wide range of parameter values, evolutionary stability of cooperation requires a mixture of conditional- and unconditional-altruist behaviors. To recollect, unconditional altruist strategy can be viewed as conditional altruist strategy sans the ability to decide when the help-soliciting individual should be refused help. That is, given involuntary defection, stability of cooperation requires an occasional forgiveness, if only by default, of a failure to donate help. Thus, we see that evolutionary stable indirect reciprocity does not require perfection in either the ability to assess the merits of the help-soliciting individuals, or the ability to donate help when it is merited. On the contrary, we are forced to conclude that reciprocity, at least in the current case, is stable only among imperfect individuals.

PMID:
14604582
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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