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The evolution of trust and trustworthiness

Trust and trustworthiness form the basis for continued social and economic interactions, and they are also fundamental for cooperation, fairness, honesty, and indeed for many other forms of prosocial and moral behaviour. However, trust entails risks, and building a trustworthy reputation requires effort. So how did trust and trustworthiness evolve, and under which conditions do they thrive?


To find answers, we operationalize trust and trustworthiness using the trust game with the trustor’s investment and the trustee’s return of the investment as the two key parameters. We study this game on different networks, including the complete network, random and scale-free networks, and in the well-mixed limit. We show that in all but one case, the network structure has little effect on the evolution of trust and trustworthiness. Specifically, for well-mixed populations, lattices, random and scale-free networks, we find that trust never evolves, while trustworthiness evolves with some probability depending on the game parameters and the updating dynamics. Only for the scale-free network with degree non-normalized dynamics, we find parameter values for which trust evolves but trustworthiness does not, as well as values for which both trust and trustworthiness evolve. We conclude with a discussion about mechanisms that could lead to the evolution of trust and outline directions for future work.


A. Kumar, V. Capraro, M. Perc, The evolution of trust and trustworthiness, Physics A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications 559 (2020) 125086


Matjaz Perc

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