The evolution of reciprocity in sizable groups

Robert Boyd, Peter J. Richerson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

540 Scopus citations


Recently, several authors have investigated the evolution of reciprocal altruism using the repeated prisoner's dilemma game. These models suggest that natural selection is likely to favor behavioral strategies leading to reciprocal cooperation when pairs of individuals interact repeatedly in potentially cooperative situations. Using the repeated n-person prisoner's dilemma game, we consider whether reciprocal altruism is also likely to evolve when social interactions involve more individuals. We show that the conditions that allow the evolution of reciprocal cooperation become extremely restrictive as group size increases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-356
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 7 1988
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Applied Mathematics


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