DOI: 1405.0041Apr 30, 2014Paper

Evolving useful delusions: Subjectively rational selfishness leads to objectively irrational cooperation

Artem KaznatcheevThomas R. Shultz


We introduce a framework within evolutionary game theory for studying the distinction between objective and subjective rationality and apply it to the evolution of cooperation on 3-regular random graphs. In our simulations, agents evolve misrepresentations of objective reality that help them cooperate and maintain higher social welfare in the Prisoner's dilemma. These agents act rationally on their subjective representations of the world, but irrationally from the perspective of an external observer. We model misrepresentations as subjective perceptions of payoffs and quasi-magical thinking as an inferential bias, finding that the former is more conducive to cooperation. This highlights the importance of internal representations, not just observed behavior, in evolutionary thought. Our results provide support for the interface theory of perception and suggest that the individual's interface can serve not only the individual's aims, but also society as a whole, offering insight into social phenomena such as religion.

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