Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Growing cooperation: First the carrot, then the stick


To encourage cooperation in groups, a combination of rewards and penalties is best, according to a new study by researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA).

An adaptable strategy that intelligently and flexibly combines positive and negative incentives turns out to be the optimal approach for institutions to encourage the highest level of cooperation at the lowest cost, according to a new study published in the Royal Society journal Interface.

“This study applies to many real-life situations, such as teachers incentivizing student efforts or governments seeking compliance with environmental regulations,” says IIASA Evolution and Ecology Program Director Ulf Dieckmann, who led the study in collaboration with IIASA researchers Xiaojie Chen, Tatsuya Sasaki, and Åke Brännström.

The new study is the first to examine the optimal institutional strategy to induce cooperation when rewarding and punishing are both possible. Previous studies of cooperation had either examined rewards and penalties in isolation, or focused on peer-to-peer sanctioning.

“In real life, such as in unruly school classes, cooperation is usually promoted by a teacher’s authority in providing positive and negative incentives,” explains Dieckmann. “Previous models focusing on sanctions from one peer to another are not a perfect match for these situations: even though one student may exhort another, that is simply not the main mechanism by which a class is pacified.”

The new study used a game-theoretical model to examine different incentive schemes, accounting for different group sizes and incentive costs. By modeling the actions of a network of rational agents, the researchers allowed cooperation levels in the system to adapt. Through this process, it became clear that an optimal strategy to encourage cooperation would start with rewarding cooperative agents. Only after a sufficiently large proportion of agents have thus been converted to cooperation, the authority would shift to a system of punishing wrongdoers.

The study provides insights into many real-world problems. For example, the researchers say, a teacher could use such a strategy to encourage good behavior in his or her students, by first rewarding those who displayed the desired behavior. Once a majority of students have begun to model the good behavior, the teacher would switch to a punishment approach.

Because of the ubiquity of cooperation dilemmas at all levels of social organization, game-theoretical studies of this kind can provide a new perspective on global and environmental problems that require local, regional, national, or international cooperation, such as climate change or pollution, in interactions among people, businesses, institutions, and governments.

Chen X, Sasaki T, Braennstroemm A, Dieckmann U. 2014. First carrot, then stick: how the adaptive hybridization of incentives promotes cooperation. J. R. Soc. Interface.12:20140935
For more information contact:

Ulf Dieckmann
Program Director
Evolution and Ecology
+43 2236 807 386

Katherine Leitzell
IIASA Press Office
Tel: +43 2236 807 316
Mob: +43 676 83 807 316

About IIASA:
IIASA is an international scientific institute that conducts research into the critical issues of global environmental, economic, technological, and social change that we face in the twenty-first century. Our findings provide valuable options to policy makers to shape the future of our changing world. IIASA is independent and funded by scientific institutions in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Oceania, and Europe. 

Katherine Leitzell | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>