Dr. Matthias Wubs


My research interest is the evolution and maintenance of cooperation. Despite an explosion of research in recent years, many questions still remain. During my PhD I will attempt to answer a few questions using a theoretical approach.

Individuals can make use of various mechanisms to ensure they will not be exploited by their partners. These mechanisms are termed partner control mechanisms. Focal individuals can respond to a cheating partner by respond cheating, leaving the partner, or resort to punishment. Although these mechanisms have been studied intensively, a comparison of the strengths and weaknesses of different mechanisms has yet to be made. One can imagine that in a large population, the simplest solution is to leave a cheating partner in search of a more cooperative one, instead of resorting to costly punishment. However, in smaller and more structured populations this option may be less viable, since all other individuals may already be tied in a partnership.

Additional factors that may well influence the usefulness of alternative partner control mechanisms are asymmetries, such as hierarchy or strength. Although a high-ranked or stronger individual may punish partners to increase their cooperative behaviour, the reverse may not always be an option (a weaker individual punishing the stronger one). Using empirically informed models, I will make an attempt to discover the relative usefulness of different partner control mechanisms in different situations.

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Member of van de Waal group