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J Theor Biol. 2003 Aug 21;223(4):523-31.

Evolution of indirect reciprocity by social information: the role of trust and reputation in evolution of altruism.

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Laboratory for Computer Science, MIT, 200 Technology Square, Room 419, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


The complexity of human's cooperative behavior cannot be fully explained by theories of kin selection and group selection. If reciprocal altruism is to provide an explanation for altruistic behavior, it would have to depart from direct reciprocity, which requires dyads of individuals to interact repeatedly. For indirect reciprocity to rationalize cooperation among genetically unrelated or even culturally dissimilar individuals, information about the reputation of individuals must be assessed and propagated in a population. Here, we propose a new framework for the evolution of indirect reciprocity by social information: information selectively retrieved from and propagated through dynamically evolving networks of friends and acquaintances. We show that for indirect reciprocity to be evolutionarily stable, the differential probability of trusting and helping a reputable individual over a disreputable individual, at a point in time, must exceed the cost-to-benefit ratio of the altruistic act. In other words, the benefit received by the trustworthy must out-weigh the cost of helping the untrustworthy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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