Average abundancy of cooperation in multi-player games with random payoffs

Dhaker Kroumi*, Sabin Lessard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We consider interactions between players in groups of size d≥ 2 with payoffs that not only depend on the strategies used in the group but also fluctuate at random over time. An individual can adopt either cooperation or defection as strategy and the population is updated from one time step to the next by a birth-death event according to a Moran model. Assuming recurrent symmetric mutation and payoffs to cooperators and defectors according to the composition of the group whose expected values, variances, and covariances are of the same small order, we derive a first-order approximation for the average abundance of cooperation in the selection-mutation equilibrium. In general, we show that increasing the variance of any payoff for defection or decreasing the variance of any payoff for cooperation increases the average abundance of cooperation. As for the effect of the covariance between any payoff for cooperation and any payoff for defection, we show that it depends on the number of cooperators in the group associated with these payoffs. We study in particular the public goods game, the stag hunt game, and the snowdrift game, all social dilemmas based on random benefit b and random cost c for cooperation, which lead to correlated payoffs to cooperators and defectors within groups. We show that a decrease in the scaled variance of b or c, or an increase in their scaled covariance, makes it easier for weak selection to favor the abundance of cooperation in the stag hunt game and the snowdrift game. The same conclusion holds for the public goods game except that the variance of b has no effect on the average abundance of C. Moreover, while the mutation rate has little effect on which strategy is more abundant at equilibrium, the group size may change it at least in the stag hunt game with a larger group size making it more difficult for cooperation to be more abundant than defection under weak selection.

Original languageEnglish
Article number27
JournalJournal of Mathematical Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
S. Lessard is supported by NSERC of Canada, grant no. 8833.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.


  • Dirichlet distribution
  • Evolution of cooperation
  • Moran model
  • Mutation-selection equilibrium
  • Public goods game
  • Snowdrift game
  • Stag hunt game

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Mathematics


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