Biology & Philosophy

, 34:43 | Cite as

The evolution of cooperation in finite populations with synergistic payoffs

  • Rafael VenturaEmail author


In a series of papers, Forber and Smead (J Philos 111(3):151–166, 2014, Biol Philos 30(3):405–421, 2015) and Smead and Forber (Evolution 67(3):698–707, 2013) make a valuable contribution to the study of cooperation in finite populations by analyzing an understudied model: the prisoner’s delight. It always pays to cooperate in the one-shot prisoner’s delight, so this model presents a best-case scenario for the evolution of cooperation. Yet, what Forber and Smead find is highly counterintuitive. In finite populations playing the prisoner’s delight, increasing the benefit of cooperation causes selection to favor defection. Here, I extend their model by considering the effects of non-linear payoffs. In particular, I show that interesting subtleties arise when payoffs are synergistic. Indeed, analysis reveals that increasing the benefit of cooperation does not always favor the spread of defection if payoffs are synergistic. I conclude by drawing some general considerations about robustness analysis in evolutionary models.


Cooperation Prisoner’s delight Finite populations Synergy 



I thank Alex Rosenberg, Rory Smead, Hannah Read, and especially two anonymous referees for helpful feedback on previous drafts of this paper.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyBilkent UniversityAnkaraTurkey

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