Reward and cooperation in the spatial public goods game

A. Szolnoki, M. Perc

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

306 Citations (Scopus)


The promise of punishment and reward in promoting public cooperation is debatable. While punishment is traditionally considered more successful than reward, the fact that the cost of punishment frequently fails to offset gains from enhanced cooperation has lead some to reconsider reward as the main catalyst behind collaborative efforts. Here we elaborate on the "stick vs. carrot" dilemma by studying the evolution of cooperation in the spatial public goods game, where besides the traditional cooperators and defectors, rewarding cooperators supplement the array of possible strategies. The latter are willing to reward cooperative actions at a personal cost, thus effectively downgrading pure cooperators to second-order free-riders due to their unwillingness to bear these additional costs. Consequently, we find that defection remains viable, especially if the rewarding is costly. Rewards, however, can promote cooperation, especially if the synergetic effects of cooperation are low. Surprisingly, moderate rewards may promote cooperation better than high rewards, which is due to the spontaneous emergence of cyclic dominance between the three strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number38003
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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