The interplay between the formation of cooperative groups and the evolution of cooperation

Henrik Sjödin is working within the Evolution and Ecology Program studying the emergence of group structures resulting from migration behaviors in large communities and their resulting effects on cooperation.

Henrik Sjödin

Henrik Sjödin


The ubiquity of cooperation among non-relatives is one of the most puzzling facts in science, as it appears to contradict Darwinian evolutionary theory. While this is interesting and challenging to understand from a strictly theoretical point of view, advancing our knowledge about the nature of cooperation, for instance, around public goods and common-pool resources such as global climate, forests, and fish stocks, will be central in bringing about a sustainable future. Previous and recent work has highlighted the importance of understanding the emergence of cooperation in large populations subdivided into groups, as in [1] [2] [3]. The mechanistic underpinnings of group formation in such systems, however, have yet to be explored. Likewise, the effects of the resulting group structures on the emergence of cooperation are not yet well understood. Therefore, in this project I study the emergence of group structures resulting from migration behaviors in large communities and their resulting effects on cooperation.


Through analytical and numerical exploration of mathematical formulations of stochastic individual-based Markovian processes of (a) inter-group migration, (b) social learning, and (c) exploration of migration strategies, I aim to show how these three types of process interact and the levels to which cooperation becomes established within the emerging group-structured communities.

Preliminary conclusions

There is an intricate dynamical interaction between the group structure of a community, the residents’ inter-group migration behaviors, and the levels of cooperation that are established. Preliminary results from the project show novel bottom-up effects on cooperation in large communities that provide new insights into the emergence and maintenance of cooperation and sociality and that will also likely be of major assistance in facilitating the understanding of top-down regulation of cooperative communities. The results of the project are expected to be published during 2015.


[1] Hauert C, Monte SD, Hofbauer J, Sigmund K. (2002). Volunteering as Red Queen mechanism for cooperation in public goods games. Science 296(5570), 1129–32.

[2] Sasaki T, Okada I, Unemi T. (2007). Probabilistic participation in public goods games. Proc. R. Soc. B. 274(1625), 2639–42.

[3] Garcia T, De Monte S. (2013). Group formation and the evolution of sociality. Evolution 67(1), 131–41.


Henrik Sjödin is a Swedish citizen, and a Kempe Postdoctoral Scholar (Aug 2014 – Aug 2016).

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Last edited: 19 February 2015

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