New publication in Scientific Reports on evolving commitments and intention recognition

New research by Tom Lenaerts and former AI-lab member The Anh Han in collaboration with Luís Moniz Pereira and Francisco C. Santos provides new insight into the synergy between intention recognition and contractual commitments for promoting cooperative behaviour. The research employs game theory methods and agent-based computer simulations to investigate mechanisms that underpin cooperation in differently composed societies.

High levels of cooperation can be achieved if reliable agreements can be arranged. Formal commitments, such as contracts, promote cooperative social behaviour if only they can be sufficiently enforced and the costs and time to arrange them provide mutual benefit.  However, should these constraints not be met, free behaviour leads to the prevalence and dominance of commitment free-riders, namely by those who commit just in case someone else pays to arrange the commitment, and by those who do not suffer severe penalty when dishonoring established agreement.  In addition, formal commitments such as contracts might not be appropriate however to every social interaction.

On the other hand, an ability to assess intention in others has been demonstrated to play a promoting role for the emergence of cooperation.  Though recognizing an intention cannot always be achieved with high enough confidence to base any decision on it. But an ability to assess intention in others, if based on previous experience and available observations at hand, facilitates cooperative behaviour without needing to resort to formal commitments like contracts.

The research found that a synergy between intention recognition and commitment depends strongly on the confidence and accuracy of the intention recognition. To reach high levels of cooperation, commitments may be unavoidable if intentions cannot be assessed with sufficient confidence and accuracy.  Otherwise, it is advantageous to wield intention recognition in order to avoid arranging costly commitments.

The full article is available online in Nature’s Open Access journal Scientific Reports:

Research topic: