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Evolutionary Stability of Indirect Reciprocity by Image Scoring


  • Berger Ulrich

    () (Department of Economics, Vienna University of Economics and Business)

  • Ansgar Grüne


Indirect reciprocity describes a class of reputation-based mechanisms which may explain the prevalence of cooperation in groups where partners meet only once. The first model for which this has analytically been shown was the binary image scoring mechanism, where one's reputation is only based on one's last action. But this mechanism is known to fail if errors in implementation occur. It has thus been claimed that for indirect reciprocity to stabilize cooperation, reputation assessments must be of higher order, i.e. contingent not only on past actions, but also on the reputations of the targets of these actions. We show here that this need not be the case. A simple image scoring mechanism where more than just one past action is observed provides ample possibilities for stable cooperation to emerge even under substantial rates of implementation errors.

Suggested Citation

  • Berger Ulrich & Ansgar Grüne, 2014. "Evolutionary Stability of Indirect Reciprocity by Image Scoring," Department of Economics Working Papers wuwp168, Vienna University of Economics and Business, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:wiw:wiwwuw:wuwp168 Note: PDF Document

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Engelmann, Dirk & Fischbacher, Urs, 2009. "Indirect reciprocity and strategic reputation building in an experimental helping game," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 67(2), pages 399-407, November.
    2. M.A. Nowak & K. Sigmund, 1998. "Evolution of Indirect Reciprocity by Image Scoring/ The Dynamics of Indirect Reciprocity," Working Papers ir98040, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.
    3. repec:eee:thpobi:v:73:y:2008:i:3:p:426-436 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Michihiro Kandori, 1992. "Social Norms and Community Enforcement," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 59(1), pages 63-80.
    5. Berger, Ulrich, 2011. "Learning to cooperate via indirect reciprocity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 72(1), pages 30-37, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Heller, Yuval & Mohlin, Erik, 2015. "Stable Observable Behavior," MPRA Paper 63013, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item


    cooperation; prisoner's dilemma; donation game; indirect reciprocity; image scoring; first-order assessment; evolutionary stability; altruism;

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness

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