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Inarguably, humans perform the richest plethora of prosocial behaviours in the animal kingdom, and these are important for understanding how humans navigate their social environment. The success and failure of strategies human players devise also have implications for determining long-term socio-economic/evolutionary fitness. Following the footsteps of Press and Dyson (2012), I implemented their evolutionary game-theoretic modelling from Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma (a behavioural economic probe of interpersonal cooperation) and re-analysed already published data on human proposer behaviour in the Ultimatum Game (a behavioural economic probe of altruistic punishment) involving 50 human participants versus stochastic computerized opponents with prosocial and individualistic social value orientations. Although the results indicate that it is more likely to break cycles of mutual defection in ecosystems in which humans interact with individualistic opponents, analysis of social-economic fitness at the Markov stationary states suggested that this comes at an evolutionary cost. Overall, human players acted in a significantly more cooperative manner than their opponents, but they failed to overcome extortion from individualistic agents, risking 'extinction' in 70% of the cases. These findings demonstrate human players might be short-sighted, and social interactive decision strategies they devise while adjusting to different types of opponents may not be optimal in the long run.

Original publication




Journal article


R Soc Open Sci

Publication Date





Prisoner’s Dilemma, Ultimatum Game, evolutionary game theory, extortion, interpersonal cooperation, zero-determinant strategy