Competition and cooperation among different punishing strategies in the spatial public goods game

Xiaojie Chen, Attila Szolnoki, Matjaž Perc

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

114 Citations (Scopus)


Inspired by the fact that people have diverse propensities to punish wrongdoers, we study a spatial public goods game with defectors and different types of punishing cooperators. During the game, cooperators punish defectors with class-specific probabilities and subsequently share the associated costs of sanctioning. We show that in the presence of different punishing cooperators the highest level of public cooperation is always attainable through a selection mechanism. Interestingly, the selection does not necessarily favor the evolution of punishers who would be able to prevail on their own against the defectors, nor does it always hinder the evolution of punishers who would be unable to prevail on their own. Instead, the evolutionary success of punishing strategies depends sensitively on their invasion velocities, which in turn reveals fascinating examples of both competition and cooperation among them. Furthermore, we show that under favorable conditions, when punishment is not strictly necessary for the maintenance of public cooperation, the less aggressive, mild form of sanctioning is the sole victor of the selection process. Our work reveals that natural strategy selection cannot only promote, but sometimes also hinders competition among prosocial strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number012819
JournalPhysical Review E - Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 27 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Condensed Matter Physics

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