Evolutionary games in networked populations: models and experiments

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Cooperation and coordination is a desirable behavior that is fundamental for the harmonious development of society. People need to rely on cooperation with other individuals in many aspects of everyday life, such as teamwork and economic exchange in anonymous markets. However, cooperation may easily fall prey to exploitation by selfish individuals who only care about short-term gain. For cooperation to evolve, specific conditions and mechanisms are required, such as kinship, direct and indirect reciprocity through repeated interactions, or external interventions such as punishment. In this dissertation we investigate the effect of the network structure of the population on the evolution of cooperation and coordination. We consider several kinds of static and dynamical network topologies, such as Barabási–Albert, social network models and spatial networks. We perform numerical simulations and laboratory experiments using the Prisoner’s Dilemma and coordination games in order to contrast human behavior with theoretical results. We show by numerical simulations that even a moderate amount of random noise on the Barabási–Albert scale-free network links causes a significant loss of cooperation, to the point that cooperation almost vanishes altogether in the Prisoner’s Dilemma when the noise rate is high enough. Moreover, when we consider fixed social-like networks we find that current models of social networks may allow cooperation to emerge and to be robust at least as much as in scale-free networks. In the framework of spatial networks, we investigate whether cooperation can evolve and be stable when agents move randomly or performing L´evy flights in a continuous space. We also consider discrete space adopting purposeful mobility and binary birth-death process to discover emergent cooperative patterns. The fundamental result is that cooperation may be enhanced when this migration is opportunistic or even when agents follow very simple heuristics. In the experimental laboratory, we investigate the issue of social coordination between individuals located on networks of contacts. In contrast to simulations, we find that human players dynamics do not converge to the efficient outcome more often in a social-like network than in a random network. In another experiment, we study the behavior of people who play a pure coordination game in a spatial environment in which they can move around and when changing convention is costly. We find that each convention forms homogeneous clusters and is adopted by approximately half of the individuals. When we provide them with global information, i.e. the number of subjects currently adopting one of the conventions, global consensus is reached in most, but not all, cases. Our results allow us to extract the heuristics used by the participants and to build a numerical simulation model that agrees very well with the experiments. Our findings have important implications for policymakers intending to promote specific, desired behaviors in a mobile population. Furthermore, we carry out an experiment with human subjects playing the Prisoner’s Dilemma game in a diluted grid where people are able to move around. In contrast to previous results on purposeful rewiring in relational networks, we find no noticeable effect of mobility in space on the level of cooperation. Clusters of cooperators form momentarily but in a few rounds they dissolve as cooperators at the boundaries stop tolerating being cheated upon. Our results highlight the difficulties that mobile agents have to establish a cooperative environment in a spatial setting without a device such as reputation or the possibility of retaliation. i.e. punishment. Finally, we test experimentally the evolution of cooperation in social networks taking into account a setting where we allow people to make or break links at their will. In this work we give particular attention to whether information on an individual’s actions is freely available to potential partners or not. Studying the role of information is relevant as information on other people’s actions is often not available for free: a recruiting firm may need to call a job candidate’s references, a bank may need to find out about the credit history of a new client, etc.We find that people cooperate almost fully when information on their actions is freely available to their potential partners. Cooperation is less likely, however, if people have to pay about half of what they gain from cooperating with a cooperator. Cooperation declines even further if people have to pay a cost that is almost equivalent to the gain from cooperating with a cooperator. Thus, costly information on potential neighbors’ actions can undermine the incentive to cooperate in dynamical networks.
Mención Internacional en el título de doctor
Evolutionary games, Social networks, Prisoner's dilemma
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