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Mixing protocols in the public goods game

If interaction partners in social dilemma games are not selected randomly from the population but are instead determined by a network of contacts, it has far reaching consequences for the evolutionary dynamics. Selecting partners randomly leads to a well-mixed population, where pattern formation is essentially impossible. This rules out important mechanisms that can facilitate cooperation, most notably network reciprocity. In contrast, if interactions are determined by a lattice or a network, then the population is said to be structured, where cooperators can form compact clusters that protect them from invading defectors. Between these two extremes, however, there is ample middle ground that can be brought about by the consideration of temporal networks, mobility, or other coevolutionary processes.

The question that we here seek to answer is, when does mixing on a lattice actually lead to well-mixed conditions? To that effect, we use the public goods game on a square lattice, and we consider nearest-neighbor and random mixing with different frequencies, as well as a mix of both mixing protocols. Not surprisingly, we find that nearest-neighbor mixing requires a higher frequency than random mixing to arrive at the well-mixed limit. The differences between the two mixing protocols are most expressed at intermediate mixing frequencies, whilst at very low and very high mixing frequencies the two almost converge. We also find a near universal exponential growth of the average size of cooperator clusters as their fraction increases from zero to one, regardless of whether this increase is due to increasing the multiplication factor of the public goods, decreasing the frequency of mixing, or gradually shifting the mixing from random to nearest neighbors.


M. Duh, M. Gosak, M. Perc, Mixing protocols in the public goods game, Physical Review E 102 (2020) 032310


Matjaz Perc

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