Individual memory and the emergence of cooperation

João Moreira, Jeromos Vukov, Claudia Maria A. Margato Ramalho Sousa, Francisco C. Santos, André F. D'Almeida, Marta D. Santos, Jorge M. Pacheco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)
14 Downloads (Pure)


The social brain hypothesis states that selection pressures associated with complex social relationships have driven the evolution of sophisticated cognitive processes in primates. We investigated how the size of cooperative primate communities depends on the memory of each of its members and on the pressure exerted by natural selection. To this end we devised an evolutionary game theoretical model in which social interactions are modelled in terms of a repeated Prisoner's Dilemma played by individuals who may exhibit a different memory capacity. Here, memory is greatly simplified and mapped onto a single parameter m describing the number of conspecifics whose previous action each individual can remember. We show that increasing m enables cooperation to emerge and be maintained in groups of increasing sizes. Furthermore, harsher social dilemmas lead to the need for a higher m in order to ensure high levels of cooperation. Finally, we show how the interplay between the dilemma individuals face and their memory capacity m allows us to define a critical group size below which cooperation may thrive, and how this value depends sensitively on the strength of natural selection.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-239
Number of pages7
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013


  • Cooperation
  • Evolutionary game theory
  • Memory
  • Reciprocity


Dive into the research topics of 'Individual memory and the emergence of cooperation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this