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Synergistic third-party rewarding and punishment in the public goods game

We study the evolution of cooperation in the spatial public goods game in the presence of third-party rewarding and punishment. The third party executes public intervention, punishing groups where cooperation is weak and rewarding groups where cooperation is strong. We consider four different scenarios to determine what works best for cooperation, in particular, neither rewarding nor punishment, only rewarding, only punishment or both rewarding and punishment. We observe strong synergistic effects when rewarding and punishment are simultaneously applied, which are absent if neither of the two incentives or just each individual incentive is applied by the third party.

We find that public cooperation can be sustained at comparatively low third-party costs under adverse conditions, which is impossible if just positive or negative incentives are applied. We also examine the impact of defection tolerance and application frequency, showing that the higher the tolerance and the frequency of rewarding and punishment, the more cooperation thrives. Phase diagrams and characteristic spatial distributions of strategies are presented to corroborate these results, which will hopefully prove useful for more efficient public policies in support of cooperation in social dilemmas.


Y. Fang, T. P. Benko, M. Perc, H. Xu, Q. Tan, Synergistic third-party rewarding and punishment in the public goods game, Proceedings of The Royal Society A 475 (2227) (2019) 20190349

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