Network Fluctuation as an Explanatory Factor in the Evolution of Cooperation

  • Steven Miller

Student thesis: Phd


Network reciprocity describes the emergence of cooperative behaviour where interactions are constrained by incomplete network connectivity. It has been widely studied as an enabling mechanism for the emergence of cooperation and may be of particular interest in explaining cooperative behaviours amongst unrelated individuals or in organisms of lower cognitive abilities. Research in this area has been galvanised by the finding that heterogeneous topology promotes cooperation. Consequently there has been a strong focus on scale-free networks; however, such networks typically presuppose formative mechanisms based on preferential attachment, a process which has no general explanation. This assumption may give rise to models of cooperation that implicitly encode capabilities only generally found in more complex forms of life, thus constraining their relevance with regards to the real world.By considering the connectivity of populations to be dynamic, rather than fixed, cooperation can exist at lower levels of heterogeneity. This thesis demonstrates that a model of network fluctuation, based on random rather than preferential growth, supports cooperative behaviour in simulated social networks of only moderate heterogeneity, thus overcoming difficulties associated with explanations based on scale-free networks. In addition to illustrating the emergence and persistence of cooperation in existing networks, we also demonstrate how cooperation may evolve in networks during their growth. In particular our model supports the emergence of cooperation in populations where it is originally absent. The combined impact of our findings increases the generality of reciprocity as an explanation for cooperation in networks.
Date of Award1 Aug 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJoshua Knowles (Supervisor) & Xiaojun Zeng (Supervisor)


  • Evolution of Cooperation
  • Complex Networks
  • Artificial Life
  • Agent-based Model
  • Evolutionary Game Theory
  • Behavioural Ecology

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