Fairness and trust in structured populations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Classical economic theory assumes that people are rational and selfish, but behavioral experiments often point to inconsistent behavior, typically attributed to “other regarding preferences.” The Ultimatum Game, used to study fairness, and the Trust Game, used to study trust and trustworthiness, have been two of the most influential and well-studied examples of inconsistent behavior. Recently, evolutionary biologists have attempted to explain the evolution of such preferences using evolutionary game theoretic models. While deterministic evolutionary game theoretic models agree with the classical economics predictions, recent stochastic approaches that include uncertainty and the possibility of mistakes have been successful in accounting for both the evolution of fairness and the evolution of trust. Here I explore the role of population structure by generalizing and expanding these existing results to the case of non-random interactions. This is a natural extension since such interactions do not occur randomly in the daily lives of individuals. I find that, in the limit of weak selection, population structure increases the space of fair strategies that are selected for but it has little-to-no effect on the optimum strategy played in the Ultimatum Game. In the Trust Game, in the limit of weak selection, I find that some amount of trust and trustworthiness can evolve even in a well-mixed population; however, the optimal strategy, although trusting if the return on investment is sufficiently high, is never trustworthy. Population structure biases selection towards strategies that are both trusting and trustworthy trustworthy and reduces the critical return threshold, but, much like in the case of fairness, it does not affect the winning strategy. Further considering the effects of reputation and structure, I find that they act synergistically to promote the evolution of trustworthiness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)214-230
Number of pages17
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 20 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Statistics, Probability and Uncertainty
  • Applied Mathematics


  • Evolutionary game theory
  • Population structure
  • Reputation
  • Trust game
  • Ultimatum game


Dive into the research topics of 'Fairness and trust in structured populations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this