'Invisible hand' guides evolution of cooperative turn-taking, research shows

July 9, 2009

It's not just good manners to wait your turn -- it's actually down to evolution, according to new research by University of Leicester psychologists.

A study in the University's School of Psychology sought to explain how turn-taking has evolved across a range of species. The conclusion is that there is an "invisible hand" that guides our actions in this respect.

Professor Andrew Colman and Dr Lindsay Browning carried out the study due to appear in the September issue of the journal Evolutionary Ecology Research. The study has helped to explain the evolution of cooperative turn-taking.

Professor Colman said: "In human groups, turn-taking is usually planned and coordinated with the help of language. For example, people living together often agree to take turns washing up the dishes after meals or taking their children to school. But turn-taking has also evolved in many other species without language or the capacity to reach negotiated agreements. These include apes, , birds, and antelopes that take turns grooming each other, and mating pairs of Antarctic penguins that take turns foraging at sea while their partners incubate eggs or tend to chicks.

"It is far from obvious how turn-taking evolved without language or insight in animals shaped by natural selection to pursue their individual self-interests."

The researchers say that playing "tit for tat" -- copying in each time period whatever the other individual did in the previous period -- can explain synchronized cooperation, but cannot fully explain turn-taking. "For example, many predatory animals hunt in pairs or larger groups, and this involves synchronized cooperation. 'Tit for tat' has been shown to work very well in initiating and sustaining this type of cooperation."

"But where cooperation involves turn-taking, a 'tit for tat' instinct could sustain the pattern once it was established but could not initiate it in the first place. For example, in a mating pair of penguins who both went foraging or both incubated the eggs at the same time, 'tit for tat' would not be enough to evolve the habit of taking turns."

Using evolutionary game theory and computer simulations, Professor Colman and Dr Browning discovered a simple variation of "tit for tat" that explains how turn-taking can evolve in organisms that pursue their individual self-interests robotically.

The researchers state: "Turn-taking is initiated only after a species has evolved at least two genetically different types that behave differently in initial, uncoordinated interactions with others. Then as soon as a pair coordinates by chance, they instinctively begin to play 'tit for tat'. This locks them into mutually beneficial coordinated turn-taking indefinitely. Without genetic diversity, turn-taking cannot evolve in this simple way."

Professor Colman added: "In our simulations, the individuals were computer programs that were not only dumb and robotic but also purely selfish. Nevertheless, they ended up taking turns in perfect coordination. We published indirect evidence for this in 2004; we have now shown it directly and found a simple explanation for it. Our findings confirm that cooperation does not always require benevolence or deliberate planning. This form of cooperation, at least, is guided by an 'invisible hand', as happens so often in Darwin's theory of ."

Source: University of Leicester (news : web)

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1 / 5 (2) Jul 09, 2009
It's not an invisible hand, it's the way the rules were DESIGNED.
not rated yet Jul 10, 2009
If constant conflict makes the individuals spend more energy than in a group where the individuals cooperate by turn-taking, evolution will favor the system where individuals were programmed by instinct for taking turns.
Since evolution operates on the individual level, there will soon be two potential behaviours, "defectors" who want to push ahead of others and "well-mannered" who wait their turn. A "tit-for-tat" instinct is necessary for the "well-mannered" to avoid being pushed out by the "defectors". Eventually, after many generations, the system sets in an equilibrum where individuals expend as little energy as possible on conflict by taking turns.
not rated yet Jul 12, 2009
It's not an invisible hand, it's the way the rules were DESIGNED.

Actually they evolved in this experiment. Finding out if the behavior could evolve was the point of the experiment.

1 / 5 (2) Jul 14, 2009
Oh, brother. So cooperation originated from random genetic mistakes (like poking a screwdriver into the guts of your computer - according to atheist Ehrlich, 2000, p. 21). And secular scientists documented this *invisible hand* using computer simulations and game theory (Colman) that they had to intelligently program (no doubt using a screwdriver at critical points!). Birger says *since evolu. operates at the individual level*. Other darwinists say it operates at the population level, still others say it operates at the molecular level. But hey - it don't matter because evolution is infinitely plastic.
5 / 5 (1) Jul 15, 2009
But hey - it don't matter because evolution is infinitely plastic.

No its not and no one claimed that either.

For instance, its pretty much a one way street. That is mutations happen but they are very unlikely to unhappen as the odds of an error are much higher than the odds of another error exactly resetting things.

For another there are changes that might be good but can't be reached without things getting worse first. Clearly a rare event if it has ever occurred.n This is covered by Richard Dawkins in Climbing Mt. Darwin.

Simulation is good way to learn things faster than can be done with lab experiments. It can't show how thing work but it can show how things might work.

Game theory works and not just in games. Go learn something by reading the books instead of looking for out of context quotes at Bullshit From Genesis Believers - Where the Bible is Rewritten Every Day to Evade New Knowledge.


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