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Open Access Research article

Groupwise information sharing promotes ingroup favoritism in indirect reciprocity

Mitsuhiro Nakamura and Naoki Masuda*

Author Affiliations

Department of Mathematical Informatics, The University of Tokyo, Bunkyo, Tokyo 113-8656, 7-3-1 Hongo, Japan

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2012, 12:213  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-12-213

Published: 5 November 2012

Abstract

Background

Indirect reciprocity is a mechanism for cooperation in social dilemma situations. In indirect reciprocity, an individual is motivated to help another to acquire a good reputation and receive help from others afterwards. Another aspect of human cooperation is ingroup favoritism, whereby individuals help members in their own group more often than those in other groups. Ingroup favoritism is a puzzle for the theory of cooperation because it is not easily evolutionarily stable. In the context of indirect reciprocity, ingroup favoritism has been shown to be a consequence of employing a double standard when assigning reputations to ingroup and outgroup members. An example of such a double standard is the situation in which helping an ingroup member is regarded as good, whereas the same action toward an outgroup member is regarded as bad.

Results

We analyze a computational model of indirect reciprocity in which information sharing is conducted groupwise. In our model, individuals play social dilemma games within and across groups, and the information about their reputations is shared within each group. We show that evolutionarily stable ingroup favoritism emerges even if all the players use the same reputation assignment rule regardless of group (i.e., a single standard). Two reputation assignment rules called simple standing and stern judging yield ingroup favoritism; under these rules, cooperation with (defection against) good individuals is regarded as good (bad) and defection against bad individuals is regarded as good. Stern judging induces much stronger ingroup favoritism than does simple standing. Simple standing and stern judging are evolutionarily stable against each other when groups employing different assignment rules compete and the number of groups is sufficiently large. In addition, we analytically show as a limiting case that homogeneous populations of reciprocators that use reputations are unstable when individuals independently infer reputations of individuals, which is consistent with previously reported numerical results.

Conclusions

Our results suggest that ingroup favoritism can be promoted in indirect reciprocity by the groupwise information sharing, in particular under the stern judging assignment rule.