Cooperation through indirect reciprocity, captured by the phrase "I help you, someone else helps me", requires the evolution of reputations and communication of those reputations among the larger group (as in the human instinct to gossip), cognitive abilities beyond being able to identify relatives (required for kin selection) or the individuals who have cooperated with you in the past (required for direct reciprocity).
Conventional economics cannot be simply augmented with biological or evolutionary metaphors; economic science must undergo a fundamental paradigm shift to recast the modern world in bioeconomic terms as a collective survival enterprise incorporating both cooperative and competitive strategies.
Evolutionary psychology helps us link up the Darwinian story of cooperation in nature, of kin selection, cooperation for mutual advantage, reciprocal altruism, and group selection, with the familiar story of the development of human societies, of property rights, nations, banks, and charity, without implying that such a connection could morally justify or perfectly determine human behavior.
While much of the economic research of commons dilemmas has explored the big-picture effects of rules, institutions, and payoff structures on cooperative behavior, experimental psychological research has uncovered crucial factors of its own, suggesting that the best commons institutions of the future will seek the best fit between top-down institutional rules and the bottom-up individual psychological effects.
Experiments like the Ultimatum Game and the Public Goods Game (one shot games for real money divided among strangers) that have been conducted in different countries all over the world have shown that group behavior frequently does not fit the traditional model of self-interested actors, that it is too richly varied between cultures to support a universal sense of fairness, and that a higher degree of market integration and higher payoffs to cooperation can be linked to greater levels of prosocial behavior.
In this paper, Benkler demonstrates that regulatory policy in the digitally networked environment is being used to replicate the current mass media structure in which individuals are passive consumers and argues that regulatory policy should develop and sustain an information commons for the consumption, production and exchange of information by active users.
Any group that attempts to manage a common resource (e.g., aquifers, judicial systems, pastures) for optimal sustainable production must solve a set of problems in order to create institutions for collective action; there is some evidence that following a small set of design principles in creating these institutions can overcome these problems.
Inspection of the genetic relatedness of two groups of rice farmers, one whose circumstances necessitated cooperation, and another group of hillside farmers whose agricultural practices enabled more independence, probed for evidence of how "ecological feedback can influence social structure, and note how these processes leave recoverable traces in population genetic structure."
Analytical results from modeling the fitness consequences of two decision-making mechanisms, despotism and democracy, shows that generally despotic models leads to higher costs than democratic models because despotism produces more extreme decisions than democracy.
The Tit-for-Tat strategy is vulnerable to noise – errors in implementing choices – that can lead to echoing defections, but can be made less sensitive by adding generosity (occasionally refraining from punishing defection by opponent) and contrition (refraining from punishing a reaction to accidental defection.)"