Teamwork pp 216-235 | Cite as

Evolution of Cooperation Without Awareness in Minimal Social Situations

  • Andrew M. Colman


A surprising prediction from a simple evolutionary game-theoretic model, based on meagre assumptions, is that a form of cooperation can evolve among agents acting without any deliberate intention to cooperate. There are circumstances in which agents can learn to behave cooperatively without even becoming aware of their strategic interdependence. This phenomenon occurs in what are called minimal social situations, through an unconscious mechanism of adaptive learning in pairs or groups of agents lacking any deliberate intention to cooperate.1 Whether or not it is reasonable to interpret this as a form of teamwork is debatable. The argument pivots on what are considered to be the essential or prototypic features of teamwork, and other contributors to this volume are better qualified than I to analyze this conceptual issue. But what seems uncontroversial is that minimal social situations represent special or limiting cases that should interest people who study teamwork and may help to throw light on more complex forms of teamwork. Minimal social situations are curiosities, outside the mainstream of evolutionary game theory, but the underlying theory is intrinsically interesting and may turn out to have some utility in explaining the evolution of social behaviour in conditions of incomplete information.


Nash Equilibrium Evolutionarily Stable Strategy Positive Payoff Negative Payoff Evolutionary Game Theory 
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© Andrew M. Colman 2005

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  • Andrew M. Colman

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