Stochasticity, Selection, and the Evolution of Cooperation in a Two-Level Moran Model of the Snowdrift Game
The Snowdrift Game, also known as the Hawk-Dove Game, is a social dilemma in which an individual can participate (cooperate) or not (defect) in producing a public good. It is relevant to a number of collective action problems in biology. In a population of individuals playing this game, traditional evolutionary models, in which the dynamics are continuous and deterministic, predict a stable, interior equilibrium frequency of cooperators. Here, we examine how finite population size and multilevel selection affect the evolution of cooperation in this game using a two-level Moran process, which involves discrete, stochastic dynamics. Our analysis has two main results. First, we find that multilevel selection in this model can yield significantly higher levels of cooperation than one finds in traditional models. Second, we identify a threshold effect for the payoff matrix in the Snowdrift Game, such that below (above) a determinate cost-to-benefit ratio, cooperation will almost surely fix (go extinct) in the population. This second result calls into question the explanatory reach of traditional continuous models and suggests a possible alternative explanation for high levels of cooperative behavior in nature.