The groups with which we associate influence our actions. This is often the case even when they are not deliberately organised but rather based on social categories, such as sex and skin colour, or cultural homogeneity, such as common language or customs. Group membership can cause widespread phenomena such as ingroup favouritism, polarisation of opinion and competition. Previous experiments have shown that these effects can be triggered by even completely arbitrary distinctions between groups. This thesis uses mathematical models to investigate under what circumstances these phenomena can arise.
Using a game theoretical approach, the first three papers address the evolution of ingroup favouritism. Previous models have focused on the prisoners’ dilemma, interactions where the socially optimal behaviour is to co-operate, but where it is in the individual’s self-interest not to. The results presented here suggest that co-ordination problems may have been more important than those of co-operation in the evolution of an ingroup bias. In particular, this applies to common goals that require trust. It is also demonstrated in a behavioural experiment that such trust is most common within groups, but that it can emerge between groups through group reputation.
The fourth paper focuses on a model on how cultural groups in contact can develop common norms, rather than polarise into different norm groups, by assuming a confirmation bias. The model is empirically tested on demographic and linguistic data from Mauritian Creole, a natural language developed from the mixing of parent languages.
In the fifth paper, the group is defined by common preferences (e.g. for pop songs), which are transmitted in a random copying model. The competitive success of the groups, with respect to their size, is recorded on a toplist, the turnover rate of which is derived.
In the final paper, people match up in pairs between groups according to their preferences, and all stable matchings are found under a specific assumption of bounded rationality, when people’s individual behaviour may be affected by the consequences for fellow group members.
Västerås: Mälardalen University , 2013.