Years ago I read a study about "the evolution of cooperation." I’ve shared its principles with friends and colleagues ever since.
Cooperation Theory (as it’s also called) is especially useful when you’re worried about being either too nice or too nasty in dealing with strangers and deciding whether to trust them. After all, there ARE people who take advantage of other people out there.
The study showed that the most successful tactic was to use a ‘tit for tat with occasional forgiveness’ decision rule:
1. Always be nice first to a stranger;
2. Make a note of their response;
3A. If they are nice back, they become part of your OK To Work With network
3B. If they are nasty back, they become part of your NOT OK To Work With network.
4. The next time you meet them, act accordingly (OK=work with; NOT OK=not work with)
This tactic was proven to work over repeated interactions of Cooperators and Non-Cooperators. The Cooperators formed trusted referral pools over time, while Non-Cooperators became identified and isolated and unable to function.
There’s an excellent overview article about this now in Wikipedia; highly worth reading and adding to your toolkit:
The Evolution of Cooperation: The study of how cooperation can emerge and persist (also known as cooperation theory) as elucidated by application of game theory. This article is an introduction to how game theory and computer modeling are illuminating certain aspects of moral and political philosophy, particularly the role of individuals in groups, the "biology of selfishness and altruism", and how cooperation can be evolutionarily advantageous.
The Randian premise that self-interest is paramount is largely unchallenged, but turned on its head by recognition of a broader, more profound view of what constitutes self-interest.
In summary, success in an evolutionary "game" correlated with the following characteristics:
. Be nice: cooperate, never be the first to defect.
. Be provocable: return defection for defection, cooperation for cooperation.
. Don’t be envious: be fair with your partner.
. Don’t be too clever: or, don’t try to be tricky.