Rewards and the evolution of cooperation in public good games

Tatsuya Sasaki, Satoshi Uchida

Abstract

Properly coordinating cooperation is relevant for resolving public good problems, such as clean energy and environmental protection. However, little is known about how individuals can coordinate themselves for a certain level of cooperation in large populations of strangers. In a typical situation, a consensus-building process rarely succeeds, owing to a lack of face and standing. The evolution of cooperation in this type of situation is studied here using threshold public good games, in which cooperation prevails when it is initially sufficient, or otherwise it perishes. While punishment is a powerful tool for shaping human behaviours, institutional punishment is often too costly to start with only a few contributors, which is another coordination problem. Here, we show that whatever the initial conditions, reward funds based on voluntary contribution can evolve. The voluntary reward paves the way for effectively overcoming the coordination problem and efficiently transforms freeloaders into cooperators with a perceived small risk of collective failure.

  • Received October 20, 2013.
  • Accepted January 6, 2014.
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