Cooperation and the Emergence of Role Differentiation in the Dynamics of Social Networks

Eguíluz, Víctor M.; Zimmermann, Martín G.; Cela-Conde, Camilo J.; San Miguel, Maxi
American Journal of Sociology 110, 977-1008 (2005)

By means of extensive computer simulations, the authors consider the entangled coevolution of actions and social structure in a new version of a spatial Prisoner's Dilemma model that naturally gives way to a process of social differentiation. Diverse social roles emerge from the dynamics of the system: leaders are individuals getting a large payoff who are imitated by a considerable fraction of the population, conformists are unsatisfied cooperative agents that keep cooperating, and exploiters are defectors with a payoff larger than the average one obtained by cooperators. The dynamics generate a social network that can have the topology of a small world network. The network has a strong hierarchical structure in which the leaders play an essential role in sustaining a highly cooperative stable regime. But disruptions affecting leaders produce social crises described as dynamical cascades that propagate through the network.

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