What Is the Best Way for a Community to Maximize the Benefits of Cooperation?

Cooperation has the best chance to spread in a community if there are many possibilities for productive interactions, if there are repeated encounters between people, and if people know each other and value their reputation. In this case, we can draw on the mechanisms of direct and indirect reciprocity. The former means “I scratch your back and you scratch mine.” The latter means “I scratch your back and somebody will scratch mine.”

Martin Nowak is a professor of biology and mathematics and the director of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics at Harvard University, and the co-author of the new book SuperCooperators.

Category: Q&A


One Response

  1. angie says:

    Cooperation depends on how much one identifies with a certain community. When one has grown up in and has relatives and close friends that are also living within a community, it is not hard to gain loyalty from those “within”. But, when outsiders move into a community that is tightly knit, it is hard to get acquainted, as people are busy with their established relationships and sometimes the “outsider” is viewed as a possible “intruder”. Such suspicion does not lead to an open environment where new business interests can prosper. It can almost be viewed as a threat.

    How do such attitudes change? Slowly, with new leadership, and proper exposure to other communities that have prospered due to an “openness” to “outsiders” and their investments in the community.

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