Prosocial Orientation Alters Network Dynamics and Fosters Cooperation

Journal Article

AbstractDynamic networks have been shown to increase cooperation, but prior findings are compatible with two different mechanisms for the evolution of cooperation. It may be that dynamic networks promote cooperation even in networks composed entirely of egoists, who strategically cooperate to attract and maintain profitable interaction partners. Alternatively, drawing on recent insights into heterogeneous social preferences, we expect that dynamic networks will increase cooperation only when nodes are occupied by persons with more prosocial preferences, who tend to attract and keep more cooperative partners relative to egoists. Our experiment used a standard procedure to classify participants a priori as egoistic or prosocial and then embedded them in homogeneous networks of all prosocials or all egoists, or in heterogeneous networks (50/50). Participants then interacted in repeated prisoner's dilemma games with alters in both static and dynamic networks. In both heterogeneous and homogeneous networks, we find dynamic networks only promote cooperation among prosocials. Resulting from their greater cooperation, prosocials’ relations are more stable, yielding substantially higher fitness compared to egoists in both heterogeneous and homogeneous dynamic networks. Our results suggest that a key to the evolution and stability of cooperation is the ability of those with prosocial preferences to alter their networks.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Melamed, D; Simpson, B; Harrell, A

Published Date

  • March 23, 2017

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 7 / 1


  • 357

Published By

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2045-2322

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1038/s41598-017-00265-x


  • en