Peer pressure: Enhancement of cooperation through mutual punishment

Han-Xin Yang, Zhi-Xi Wu, Zhihai Rong, Ying-Cheng Lai

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45 Citations (Scopus)


An open problem in evolutionary game dynamics is to understand the effect of peer pressure on cooperation in a quantitative manner. Peer pressure can be modeled by punishment, which has been proved to be an effective mechanism to sustain cooperation among selfish individuals. We investigate a symmetric punishment strategy, in which an individual will punish each neighbor if their strategies are different, and vice versa. Because of the symmetry in imposing the punishment, one might intuitively expect the strategy to have little effect on cooperation. Utilizing the prisoner's dilemma game as a prototypical model of interactions at the individual level, we find, through simulation and theoretical analysis, that proper punishment, when even symmetrically imposed on individuals, can enhance cooperation. Also, we find that the initial density of cooperators plays an important role in the evolution of cooperation driven by mutual punishment.
Original languageEnglish
Article number022121
Number of pages6
JournalPhysical Review. E, Statistical, Nonlinear and Soft Matter Physics
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2015

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China under Grants No. 61403083, No. 11135001, No. 11475074 and No. 61473060, and the Research Foundation of University of Electronic Science and Technology of China and Hong Kong Scholars Program (No. XJ2013019 and G-YZ4D). Y.C.L. was supported by the Army Research Office (ARO) under Grant No. W911NF-14-1-0504.


  • Peer pressure
  • Mutual punishment
  • Cooperation


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