Journal of Evolutionary Economics

, Volume 17, Issue 5, pp 623–646 | Cite as

Neighborhood structure and the evolution of cooperation

  • Tackseung Jun
  • Rajiv SethiEmail author
Regular Article


This paper deals with the problem of explaining the survival of cooperative behavior in populations in which each person interacts only with a small set of social ‘neighbors’, and individuals adjust their behavior over time by myopically imitating more successful strategies within their own neighborhood. We identify two parameters—the interaction radius and the benefit–cost ratio—which jointly determine whether or not cooperation can survive. For each value of the interaction radius, there exists a critical value of the benefit–cost ratio which serves as the threshold below which cooperation cannot be sustained. This threshold itself declines as the interaction radius rises, so there is a precise sense in which dense networks are more conducive to the evolution of cooperation.


Local interaction Evolution Cooperation 

JEL Classification

C72 D64 


  1. Albin PS, Foley DK (2001) The co-evolution of cooperation and complexity in a multi-player, local-interaction prisoners’ dilemma. Complexity 6:54–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Axelrod RM (1984) The evolution of cooperation. New York, Basic BooksGoogle Scholar
  3. Bergstrom T (2002) Evolution of social behavior: individual and group selection. J Econ Perspect 16:67–88Google Scholar
  4. Bergstrom T, Stark O (1993) How altruism can prevail in an evolutionary environment. Am Econ Rev 83:149–155Google Scholar
  5. Bowles S, Gintis H (2004) The evolution of strong reciprocity: cooperation in heterogeneous populations. Theor Popul Biol 65:17–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Coleman JS (1988) Free riders and zealots: the role of social networks. Sociol Theory 6:52–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Eshel I (1972) On the neighborhood effect and the evolution of altruistic traits. Theor Popul Biol 3:258–277CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Eshel I, Herreiner D, Samuelson L, Sansone E, Shaked A (2000) Cooperation, mimesis, and local interaction. Sociol Methods Res 28:341–364CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Eshel I, Samuelson L, Shaked A (1998) Altruists, egoists, and hooligans in a local interaction model. Am Econ Rev 88:157–179Google Scholar
  10. Eshel I, Sansone E, Shaked A (1999) The emergence of kinship behavior in structured populations of unrelated individuals. Int J Game Theory 28:447–463CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fehr E, Fischbacher U (2003) The nature of human altruism. Nature 425:785–791CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Granovetter M (1985) Economic action and social structure: the problem of embeddedness. Am J Sociol 91:481–510CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Nowak MA, May RM (1992) Evolutionary games and spacial chaos. Nature 359:826–829CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Nowak MA, May RM (1993) The spatial dilemmas of evolution. Int J Bifurc Chaos Appl Sci Eng 3:35–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Watts D (1999) Small worlds. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New JerseyGoogle Scholar
  16. Watts D, Strogatz SH (1998) Collective dynamics of ‘small-world’ networks. Nature 393:440–442CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsKyung Hee UniversitySeoulKorea
  2. 2.Department of Economics, Barnard CollegeColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations