Emergence of Social Cohesion in a Society of Greedy Individuals

Human wellbeing in modern societies relies on social cohesion, which can be characterized by high levels of cooperation and a large number of social ties. Both features, however, are frequently challenged by individual self-interest. In fact, the stability of social and economic systems can suddenly break down as the recent financial crisis and outbreaks of civil wars illustrate. To understand the conditions for the emergence and robustness of social cohesion, we simulate the creation of public goods among mobile agents, assuming that behavioral changes are determined by individual satisfaction. Specifically, we study a generalized win-stay-lose-shift learning model, which is only based on previous experience and rules out green beard effects that would allow individuals to guess future gains. The most noteworthy aspect of this model is that it promotes cooperation in social dilemma situations despite very low information requirements and without assuming imitation, a shadow of the future, reputation effects, signaling, or punishment. We find that moderate greediness favors social cohesion by a coevolution between cooperation and spatial organization, additionally showing that those cooperation-enforcing levels of greediness can be evolutionarily selected. However, a maladaptive trend of increasing greediness, although enhancing individuals’ returns in the beginning, eventually causes cooperation and social relationships to fall apart. Our model is, therefore, expected to shed light on the long-standing problem of  the emergence and stability of cooperative behavior.

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About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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