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The Evolution of Cooperative Heuristics - SCOOP lecture by Piet van den Berg

On Tuesday February 6th, 11-13.00, Dr. Piet van den Berg will give a presentation at the Department of Sociology, University of Groningen (Room M.61, Snijderzaal - Munting Building, Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences)

Individuals face many types of social interactions throughout their lives, but they often cannot perfectly assess what the consequences of their actions may be. It is known that unpredictable environments can profoundly affect the evolutionary process, but it remains unclear how uncertainty about the nature of social interactions has shaped the evolution of social behaviour. By means of an evolutionary simulation model, we here show that uncertainty can lead to the evolution of simple cooperation strategies that disregard the available information about the nature of the social interaction (‘heuristics’). In addition, we show that these heuristic strategies are more cooperative than the relatively sophisticated strategies that evolve when individuals are better able to assess social interactions. We robustly obtain this result for a wide range of parametrizations regarding how mutations generate new strategies. Our model provides insight into why individuals often behave more cooperatively than standard evolutionary and economic theory would predict. More generally, our results show that social behaviour that seems suboptimal when considered in isolation may actually be well-adapted to a heterogeneous and uncertain world.

Piet van den Berg obtained his PhD in biology at the University of Groningen in 2015. Currently he holds a Post Doc position at the Lab of Socioecology & Social Evolution (KU Leuven), funded by the NWO.