Networks of reliable reputations and cooperation: a review


Reputation has been shown to provide an informal solution to the problem of cooperation in human societies. After reviewing models that connect reputations and cooperation, we address how reputation results from information exchange embedded in a social network that changes endogenously itself. Theoretical studies highlight that network topologies have different effects on the extent of cooperation, since they can foster or hinder the flow of reputational information. Subsequently, we review models and empirical studies that intend to grasp the coevolution of reputations, cooperation and social networks. We identify open questions in the literature concerning how networks affect the accuracy of reputations, the honesty of shared information and the spread of reputational information. Certain network topologies may facilitate biased beliefs and intergroup competition or in-group identity formation that could lead to high cooperation within but conflicts between different subgroups of a network. Our review covers theoretical, experimental and field studies across various disciplines that target these questions and could explain how the dynamics of interactions and reputations help or prevent the establishment and sustainability of cooperation in small- and large-scale societies.

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences