Why People Cooperate

Think of the last time you cooperated with someone? It was probably a friend, family member, or work colleague. If we want to retain good relations with close individuals, cooperation is the natural thing to do. However, our lives lead us into situations where we interact with strangers. How do we decide if we should cooperate then?

In an article on his blog, David Perell explores why we cooperate with others. While pursuing the question, he came to this discovery:

“Cooperation is determined by the length and frequency of interactions. If two individuals are likely to meet again, they will likely cooperate. If not, they likely won’t. “

David Perell

Regardless of the situation, there is a research tested scientific strategy for cooperation. It is a classic conflict model known as Tit for Tat.

“Believe it or not, there’s an optimal way to behave in repeated interactions.  This simple strategy is called Tit for Tat. Reciprocity is the name of the game. Under the rules of Tit-for-Tat, players cooperate on the first move in a series of repeated interactions. Then, they mirror the other player in every subsequent move. After the first interaction, if the other person cooperates, they cooperate. If the other person defects, they defect. It’s simple.”

I was drawn to this article for a very personal reason. In my college days at the University of Toronto I studied Tit for Tat under one of its premier researchers, Anatol Rappaport. He was an amazing college professor and remains today one of my favorite teachers ever. Rappaport developed computer simulations that proved the power of Tit for Tat. Unfortunately, the Professor passed away many years ago.

Read the rest of David’s article on his blog.

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