Evolving useful delusions: Subjectively rational selfishness leads to objectively irrational cooperation

Artem KaznatcheevMcGill University
Marcel MontreyMcGill University
Thomas ShultzMcGill University

Abstract

We introduce a framework within evolutionary game theory for studying the distinction between objective and subjective rationality and apply it to the evolution of cooperation on 3-regular random graphs. In our simulations, agents evolve misrepresentations of objective reality that help them to cooperate and maintain higher social welfare in the Prisoner's dilemma. These agents act rationally on their subjective representations of the world, but irrationally from the perspective of an external observer. We model misrepresentations as subjective perception of payoffs and a quasi-magical thinking bias to inference -- the former is more conducive to cooperation. This highlights the importance of internal representations, not just observed behavior, in evolutionary thought. Our results provide support for the interface theory of perception and suggest that the individual's interface can serve not only that individual's aims, but also society as a whole, offering insight into social phenomena such as religion.

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