Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Volatile social environments can favour investments in quality over quantity of social relationships


Aubier, Thomas G.; Kokko, Hanna (2022), Volatile social environments can favour investments in quality over quantity of social relationships, Dryad, Dataset,


Cooperation does not occur in a vacuum: interactions develop over time in social groups that undergo demographic changes. Intuition suggests that stable social environments favour developing few but strong reciprocal relationships (a 'focused' strategy), while volatile social environments favour the opposite: more but weaker social relationships (a 'diversifying' strategy). We model reciprocal investments under a quality-quantity tradeoff for social relationships. We find that volatility, counterintuitively, can favour a focused strategy. This result becomes explicable through applying the theory of antagonistic pleiotropy, originally developed for senescence, to social life. Diversifying strategies show superior performance later in life, but with costs paid at young ages while the social network is slowly being built. Under volatile environments, many individuals die before reaching sufficiently old ages to reap the benefits. Social strategies that do well early in life are then favoured: a focused strategy leads individuals to form their first few social bonds quickly and to make strong use of existing bonds. Our model highlights the importance of pleiotropy and population age structure for the evolution of cooperative strategies and other social traits, and shows that it is not sufficient to reflect on the fate of survivors only, when evaluating the benefits of social strategies.


Code C++ and R

Usage Notes

Code to run simulations and produce the raw data, and produce the figures. See the README.txt file associated with the code for the installation procedure.