Meeting now suggests we will meet again: Implications for debates on the evolution of cooperation


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Humans are often generous, even towards strangers encountered by chance and even in the absence of any explicit information suggesting they will meet again. Because game theoretic analyses typically conclude that a psychology designed for direct reciprocity should defect in such situations, many have concluded that alternative explanations for human generosity—explanations beyond direct reciprocity—are necessary. However, human cooperation evolved within a material and informational ecology: Simply adding consideration of one minimal ecological relationship to the analysis of reciprocity brings theory and observation closer together, indicating that ecology-free analyses of cooperation can be fragile. Using simulations, we show that the autocorrelation of an individual's location over time means that even a chance encounter with an individual predicts an increased probability of a future encounter with that same individual. We discuss how a psychology designed for such an ecology may be expected to often cooperate even in apparently one-shot situations.

Last updated on 09/02/2015