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Gains to cooperation drive the evolution of egalitarianism


Hooper, Paul L; Kaplan, Hillard S; Jaeggi, Adrian V (2021). Gains to cooperation drive the evolution of egalitarianism. Nature Human Behaviour, 5(7):847-856.

Abstract

What conditions favour egalitarianism, that is, muted hierarchies with relatively equal distributions of resources? Here, we combine the hawk–dove and prisoner’s dilemma games to model the effects of economic defensibility, costs of competition and gains from cooperation on egalitarianism, operationalized as the absence of hawks. We show that a ‘leveller’ strategy, which punishes hawkishness in the hawk–dove game with defection in the prisoner’s dilemma, can be evolutionarily stable provided that the gains from cooperation are high relative to the benefits of hawkishness. Under these conditions, rare mutant levellers select for hawks that acquiesce to punishment by playing dove. If these ‘acquiescent hawks’ become common, levellers outperform hawks and establish a new egalitarian equilibrium. An analysis of human foraging groups corroborates these results, as groups with a greater reliance on cooperation are more egalitarian. Cooperation fosters greater equality when individuals can withhold its benefits from would-be dominant individuals.

Abstract

What conditions favour egalitarianism, that is, muted hierarchies with relatively equal distributions of resources? Here, we combine the hawk–dove and prisoner’s dilemma games to model the effects of economic defensibility, costs of competition and gains from cooperation on egalitarianism, operationalized as the absence of hawks. We show that a ‘leveller’ strategy, which punishes hawkishness in the hawk–dove game with defection in the prisoner’s dilemma, can be evolutionarily stable provided that the gains from cooperation are high relative to the benefits of hawkishness. Under these conditions, rare mutant levellers select for hawks that acquiesce to punishment by playing dove. If these ‘acquiescent hawks’ become common, levellers outperform hawks and establish a new egalitarian equilibrium. An analysis of human foraging groups corroborates these results, as groups with a greater reliance on cooperation are more egalitarian. Cooperation fosters greater equality when individuals can withhold its benefits from would-be dominant individuals.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Evolutionary Medicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:1 July 2021
Deposited On:03 Mar 2021 09:38
Last Modified:23 Jul 2021 01:07
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group
ISSN:2397-3374
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-021-01059-y
PubMed ID:33649461

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