Evolutionary stability in continuous nonlinear public goods games
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We investigate a type of public goods games played in groups of individuals who choose how much to contribute towards the production of a common good, at a cost to themselves. In these games, the common good is produced based on the sum of contributions from all group members, then equally distributed among them. In applications, the dependence of the common good on the total contribution is often nonlinear (e.g., exhibiting synergy or diminishing returns). To date, most theoretical and experimental studies have addressed scenarios in which the set of possible contributions is discrete. However, in many real-world situations, contributions are continuous (e.g., individuals volunteering their time). The "n-player snowdrift games" that we analyze involve continuously varying contributions. We establish under what conditions populations of contributing (or "cooperating") individuals can evolve and persist. Previous work on snowdrift games, using adaptive dynamics, has found that what we term an "equally cooperative" strategy is locally convergently and evolutionarily stable. Using static evolutionary game theory, we find conditions under which this strategy is actually globally evolutionarily stable. All these results refer to stability to invasion by a single mutant. We broaden the scope of existing stability results by showing that the equally cooperative strategy is locally stable to potentially large population perturbations, i.e., allowing for the possibility that mutants make up a non-negligible proportion of the population (due, for example, to genetic drift, environmental variability or dispersal).