The joint evolution of cooperation and information gathering

Program in Quantitative and Computational Biology, Princeton University, USA

Eleanor Brush

Eleanor Brush

Information about other agents’ behaviors and memory of previous interactions can affect how agents in a social system interact with each other. For instance, reputation, reciprocity, and ostracism can help stabilize cooperation when defection would otherwise prevail, and these mechanisms require that agents obtain and remember information about their peers. In economics, models in which consumers have imperfect information (a phenomenon called rational inattention) predict that the ability of consumers to make optimal decisions about their interactions with sellers will be constrained. In both of these types of established models, information-gathering strategies and memory are introduced all at once and at full strength. However, these features are themselves under selection and will evolve according to how much they benefit the agents who use them. While adaptive dynamics theory has already been used to model the separate evolution of cooperation and memory, little work has as yet been done to examine the joint evolution of both features. Hence, my plan is to develop a model of the joint evolution of strategies determining cooperative investment on the one hand, and information gathering and memory on the other. By modeling such joint evolution, I will be able to study how the evolution of cooperation depends on the ability or inability of agents to observe and remember previous interactions, and whether evolution can lead to strategies for information gathering and memory that stabilize cooperation when it would otherwise disappear. Ultimately, this research will help to better understand how information gathering and memory can promote and stabilize cooperation, and how to design systems so that cooperation is stable on evolutionary timescales.

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Last edited: 24 March 2016

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