Facilitators on networks reveal the optimal interplay between information exchange and reciprocity

Attila Szolnoki, Matjaz Perc, Mauro Mobilia

Reciprocity is firmly established as an important mechanism that promotes cooperation. An efficient information exchange is likewise important, especially on structured populations, where interactions between players are limited. Motivated by these two facts, we explore the role of facilitators in social dilemmas on networks. Facilitators are here mirrors to their neighbors -- they cooperate with cooperators and defect with defectors -- but they do not participate in the exchange of strategies. As such, in addition to introducing direct reciprocity, they also obstruct information exchange. In well-mixed populations, facilitators favor the replacement and invasion of defection by cooperation as long as their number exceeds a critical value. In structured populations, on the other hand, there exists a delicate balance between the benefits of reciprocity and the deterioration of information exchange. Extensive Monte Carlo simulations of social dilemmas on various interaction networks reveal that there exists an optimal interplay between reciprocity and information exchange, which sets in only when a small number of facilitators occupies the main hubs of the scale-free network. The drawbacks of missing cooperative hubs are more than compensated by reciprocity and, at the same time, the compromised information exchange is routed via the auxiliary hubs with only marginal losses in effectivity. These results indicate that it is not always optimal for the main hubs to become ''leaders of the masses'', but rather to exploit their highly connected state to promote tit-for-tat-like behavior.

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