Conference on Complex Systems Close this Window
Robert Axelrod Robert Axelrod
Arthur W. Bromage Distinguished University Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan

The Evolution of Ethnocentric Behavior

Ethnocentrism is a nearly universal syndrome of attitudes and behaviors, including cooperation with members of the in-group, but not out-groups. A simple agent-based model demonstrates how patterns of behavior can emerge from a model of local competition between individuals in which strategies are inherited by means of genetics, culture or (most plausibly) both. Simulation results show that ethnocentric behavior can evolve even when direct reciprocity is impossible, opportunities for free riding exist, and individuals have minimal cognitive ability. When cooperating is relatively costly, ethnocentric behavior can even be necessary to sustain cooperation.