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Who should pay the price?

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Social dilemmas, in which an individual profits from selfishness, unless the whole group chooses the selfish option, have long provided an academic challenge. A new study publishing in PLOS Computational Biology theoretically analyzes the effects of incentives and meta-incentives on resolving social dilemmas. Soka University researcher Dr Isamu Okada and colleagues devise and analyze a replicator dynamics model of the extended public good games to solve the issue.

The authors explain that the meta-incentives encouraging rewards given to co-operators in social dilemmas significantly prevent cooperative incentive-non-providers who shirk their duty to provide incentives to others, or the second-order free riders.

The authors focused on one human trait, a linkage, which means individuals who are willing to provide incentives would automatically provide meta-incentives as well.

Allowing a reward-to-reward linkage, rather than a punishment system, can resolve the social dilemma without any social costs for formal incentive systems.

"Unexpectedly, the role of the reward system in resolving social dilemmas is significant," says Okada. "We would apply it to real social and biological situations in the absence of the strong institutions by analyzing the efficiency of incentives required for keeping cooperation."

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All works published in PLOS Computational Biology are Open Access, which means that all content is immediately and freely available. Use this URL in your coverage to provide readers access to the paper upon publication: http://www.ploscompbiol.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004232

Contact: Isamu Okada
Address: Soka University
Business Administration
1-236 Tangi
Hachioji, 192-8577
JAPAN
Phone: +81426918904
Email: okada@soka.ac.jp

Citation: Okada I, Yamamoto H, Toriumi F, Sasaki T (2015) The Effect of Incentives and Meta-incentives on the Evolution of Cooperation. PLoS Comput Biol 11(5): e1004232.doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004232

Funding: IO acknowledges support by the Grants-inaid for Scientific Research from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (KAKENHI) 22520160. HY acknowledges support by the Grants-in-aid for Scientific Research from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (KAKENHI) 26330387. TS acknowledges support by the Foundational Questions in Evolutionary Biology Fund: RFP-12-21 and the Austrian Science Fund (FWF): P27018-G11. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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