An institutional mechanism for assortment in an ecology of games

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Abstract

Recent research has revived Long's "ecology of games" model to analyze how social actors cooperate in the context of multiple political and social games. However, there is still a paucity of theoretical work that considers the mechanisms by which large-scale cooperation can be promoted in a dynamic institutional landscape, in which actors can join new games and leave old ones. This paper develops an agent-based model of an ecology of games where agents participate in multiple public goods games. In addition to contribution decisions, the agents can leave and join different games, and these processes are de-coupled. We show that the payoff for cooperation is greater than for defection when limits to the number of actors per game ("capacity constraints") structure the population in ways that allow cooperators to cluster, independent of any complex individual-level mechanisms such as reputation or punishment. Our model suggests that capacity constraints are one effective mechanism for producing positive assortment and increasing cooperation in an ecology of games. The results suggest an important trade-off between the inclusiveness of policy processes and cooperation: Fully inclusive policy processes reduce the chances of cooperation. © 2011 Smaldino, Lubell.

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Smaldino, P. E., & Lubell, M. (2011). An institutional mechanism for assortment in an ecology of games. PLoS ONE, 6(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0023019

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