Evolutionary Selection of Socially Sensitive Preferences in Random Matching Environments

In this paper we study the evolutionary selection of socially sensitive preferences in the context of reference interaction settings such as coordination failure and cooperation. We refer to a specific class of socially sensitive preferences in which players weigh additively their own material payoff against the opponent with either a positive or negative coefficient (lambda-players).
Preference evolution is guided by replicator dynamics in a context of perfect observability of preferences types and stochastic pairwise matching. We take an indirect evolutionary approach, that is, the selection mechanism operates on the actual material payoffs earned by players, so that any instance of socially sensitive preference can be thought of as instrumentally maintained. We find that the evolutionary viability of socially sensitive preferences basically depends on whether or not they cause a substantial improvement in the achievement of socially efficient outcomes with respect to the case where only self-serving or unconditionally focused preference orientations are observed. Our results suggest that moderate prosocial preference orientations are likely to emerge from social selection even in the absence of an intrinsic motivational drive, whereas extremely pro-social orientations as well as competitive and anti-social ones may need a stronger motivational base.

Article by Domenico Menicucci, Pier Luigi Sacco
Published in The Journal of Mathematical Sociology, 33:4, 241-276

From the Conclusions (excerpt)
(…) Thus, if instrumental benevolence can be conducive to social efficiency under certain circumstances, to some extent the same can be said of selective nastiness. At this point it is difficult to draw clear-cut conclusions on the evolutionary value of socially sensitive motivations and preferences. Therefore, we tend to view the present study as but a very first step in a vast field of inquiry, whose thorough exploration will require a careful blend of theoretical and empirical research (…).

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