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Strategically positioning cooperators can facilitate the contagion of cooperation

The spreading of cooperation in structured population is a challenging problem which can be observed at different scales of social and biological organization. Generally, the problem is studied by evaluating the chances that few initial invading cooperators, randomly appearing in a network, can lead to the spreading of cooperation.

In this paper we demonstrate that in many scenarios some cooperators are more influential than others and their initial positions can facilitate the spreading of cooperation. We investigate six different ways to add initial cooperators in a network of cheaters, based on different network-based measurements.

Our research reveals that strategically positioning the initial cooperators in a population of cheaters allows to decrease the number of initial cooperators necessary to successfully seed cooperation.

The strategic positioning of initial cooperators can also help to shorten the time necessary for the restoration of cooperation. The optimal ways in which the initial cooperators should be placed is, however, non-trivial in that it depends on the degree of competition, the underlying game, and the network structure.

Overall, our results show that, in structured populations, few cooperators, well positioned in strategically chosen places, can spread cooperation faster and easier than a large number of cooperators that are placed badly.


G. Yang, M. Cavaliere, C. Zhu, M. Perc, Strategically positioning cooperators can facilitate the contagion of cooperation, Scientific Reports 11 (2021) 1127.

Matjaz Perc

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