Synergy between intention recognition and commitments in cooperation dilemmas

The Anh Han, Francisco Santos, Tom Lenaerts, Luis M Pereira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

34 Citations (Scopus)


Commitments have been shown to promote cooperation if, on the one hand, they can be sufficiently enforced, and on the other hand, the cost of arranging them is justified with respect to the benefits of cooperation. When either of these constraints is not met it leads to the prevalence of commitment free-riders, such as those who commit only when someone else pays to arrange the commitments. Here, we show how intention recognition may circumvent such weakness of costly commitments. We describe an evolutionary model, in the context of the one-shot Prisoner's Dilemma, showing that if players first predict the intentions of their co-player and propose a commitment only when they are not confident enough about their prediction, the chances of reaching mutual cooperation are largely enhanced. We find that an advantageous synergy between intention recognition and costly commitments depends strongly on the confidence and accuracy of intention recognition. In general, we observe an intermediate level of confidence threshold leading to the highest evolutionary advantage, showing that neither unconditional use of commitment nor intention recognition can perform optimally. Rather, our results show that arranging commitments is not always desirable, but that they may be also unavoidable depending on the strength of the dilemma.
Original languageEnglish
Article number9312
Number of pages7
JournalScientific Reports - Nature
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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