Does spending more always ensure higher cooperation? An analysis of institutional incentives on heterogeneous networks

Theodor Cimpeanu*, Francisco C. Santos, The Anh Han*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Humans have developed considerable machinery used at scale to create policies and to distribute incentives, yet we are forever seeking ways in which to improve upon these, our institutions. Especially when funding is limited, it is imperative to optimise spending without sacrificing positive outcomes, a challenge which has often been approached within several areas of social, life and engineering sciences. These studies often neglect the availability of information, cost restraints or the underlying complex network structures, which define real-world populations. Here, we have extended these models, including the aforementioned concerns, but also tested the robustness of their findings to stochastic social learning paradigms. Akin to real-world decisions on how best to distribute endowments, we study several incentive schemes, which consider information about the overall population, local neighbourhoods or the level of influence which a cooperative node has in the network, selectively rewarding cooperative behaviour if certain criteria are met. Following a transition towards a more realistic network setting and stochastic behavioural update rule, we found that carelessly promoting cooperators can often lead to their downfall in socially diverse settings. These emergent cyclic patterns not only damage cooperation, but also decimate the budgets of external investors. Our findings highlight the complexity of designing effective and cogent investment policies in socially diverse populations.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalDynamic Games and Applications
VolumeFirst Online
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Apr 2023

Keywords

  • Evolutionary game theory
  • Evolution of cooperation
  • Cost efficiency
  • Incentives
  • Scale-free networks
  • Prisoners’ dilemma

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