Profile: Alexander J. Stewart

Mathematical Biologist

Alexander is a Mathematical Biologist at the University of Pennsylvania. He uses evolutionary game theory and population genetics to study questions relating to the evolution of complex social behaviors, the evolvability of populations and the evolution of genetic architecture.

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Game Theory: Clues To Why We Cooperate

Why do people cooperate? This isn’t a question anyone seriously asks. The answer is obvious: we cooperate because doing so is usually synergistic. It creates more benefit for less cost and makes our lives easier and better. Maybe it’s better to ask why don’t people always cooperate. But the answer here seems obvious too. We don’t do so if we think we can get away with it. If we can save ourselves the effort of working with someone else but still gain the benefits of others’ cooperation. And, perhaps, we withhold cooperation as punishment for others’ past refusal to collaborate with us. Since there are good reasons to cooperate – and good reasons not to do so – we are left with a question without an obvious answer: under what conditions will people cooperate?

Category: Science

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