The Royal Society

Supplementary material from "Evolution of reciprocity with limited payoff memory"

Posted on 2024-06-07 - 10:13
Direct reciprocity is a mechanism for the evolution of cooperation in repeated social interactions. According to this literature, individuals naturally learn to adopt conditionally cooperative strategies if they have multiple encounters with their partner. Corresponding models have greatly facilitated our understanding of cooperation, yet they often make strong assumptions on how individuals remember and process payoff information. For example, when strategies are updated through social learning, it is commonly assumed that individuals compare their average payoffs. This would require them to compute (or remember) their payoffs against everyone else in the population. To understand how more realistic constraints influence direct reciprocity, we consider the evolution of conditional behaviours when individuals learn based on more recent experiences. Even in the most extreme case that they only take into account their very last interaction, we find that cooperation can still evolve. However, such individuals adopt less generous strategies, and they cooperate less often than in the classical setup with average payoffs. Interestingly, once individuals remember the payoffs of two or three recent interactions, cooperation rates quickly approach the classical limit. These findings contribute to a literature that explores which kind of cognitive capabilities are required for reciprocal cooperation. While our results suggest that some rudimentary form of payoff memory is necessary, it suffices to remember a few interactions.


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