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J Theor Biol. 2009 Oct 21;260(4):581-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2009.07.010. Epub 2009 Jul 16.

Evolution of cooperation under N-person snowdrift games.

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  • 1Departamento de Matemática Aplicada, Universidade Federal Fluminense, R. Mário Santos Braga, s/n, Niterói RJ, 24020-140, Brasil.


In the animal world, performing a given task which is beneficial to an entire group requires the cooperation of several individuals of that group who often share the workload required to perform the task. The mathematical framework to study the dynamics of collective action is game theory. Here we study the evolutionary dynamics of cooperators and defectors in a population in which groups of individuals engage in N-person, non-excludable public goods games. We explore an N-person generalization of the well-known two-person snowdrift game. We discuss both the case of infinite and finite populations, taking explicitly into consideration the possible existence of a threshold above which collective action is materialized. Whereas in infinite populations, an N-person snowdrift game (NSG) leads to a stable coexistence between cooperators and defectors, the introduction of a threshold leads to the appearance of a new interior fixed point associated with a coordination threshold. The fingerprints of the stable and unstable interior fixed points still affect the evolutionary dynamics in finite populations, despite evolution leading the population inexorably to a monomorphic end-state. However, when the group size and population size become comparable, we find that spite sets in, rendering cooperation unfeasible.

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