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article imageEvolution favors cooperation

By Kirstin Stokes Smith     Aug 2, 2013 in Science
Lansing - New research out of Michigan State University is redefining Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest laws. Using game theory, two researchers have determined that humans' cooperative nature will one day drive out selfish, ego-driven competition.
Researchers Christoph Adami and Arend Hintze ran hundreds of thousands of game-theory simulations using high-powered computing to determine which drive was stronger – selfishness or selflessness, reports The Independent.
"We found evolution will punish you if you're selfish and mean," professor of microbiology and molecular genetics Adami told mLive.com.
Adami and research associate Hintze sought to challenge findings from a 2012 study which proposed the notion that selfish nature was stronger than the drive to cooperate. The theory in question is called zero-determinant strategy, and the 2012 study proposed that when used, it would eliminate competition leading to a dominant selfish society.
The theory has been hotly debated among researchers for about 30 years, Adami told mLive.com. A 2012 study by David Rand, Joshua Greene and Martin Nowak, published under the title, "Spontaneous giving and calculated greed," in the journal, Nature Communications provides some evidence of this debate. Their study concluded that humans are inherently generous, and that when they have to make an immediate choice, their first impulse is to cooperate. After thinking about their choice for some time, some people behave with greater self interest.
Adami and Hintze's paper was published August 1 in Nature Communications.
In their study they discovered that zero-determinant strategies were only successful in specific environments, under specific circumstances. For example, players adjust the way they play depending on whether their opponent is a cooperative player or a zero-determinant player.
"And even if zero-determinant strategists kept winning so that only zero-determinant strategists were left, in the long run they would have to evolve away from being zero-determinant and become more cooperative," said Hintze. It is a cycle that cannot sustain itself.
More about Evolution, game theory, Human nature, Darwinism
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