Networks of reliable reputations and cooperation: A review

Károly Takács*, Jörg Gross, Martina Testori, Srebrenka Letina, Adam R. Kenny, Eleanor A. Power, Rafael P.M. Wittek

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-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. This article is part of the theme issue 'The language of cooperation: reputation and honest signalling'.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20200297
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1838
Early online date4 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 22 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Participation at the workshop 'The language of cooperation: reputation and honest signaling' was facilitated by the Lorentz Center. K.T. and S.L. received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's research and innovation programme (grant agreement no. 648693). K.T. is supported by the National Research, Development and Innovation Office - NKFIH (OTKA) grant K 132250. R.P.M.W.'s contribution is part of the research programme Sustainable Cooperation - Roadmaps to Resilient Societies (SCOOP), funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) in the context of its 2017 Gravitation programme (grant number 024.003.025). S.L. is part of the relationship programme supported by The Medical Research Council and Scotland's Chief Scientist Office (MC_UU_00022/3) and with CSO funding of the Relationships programme (SPHSU18).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors.


  • cooperation
  • indirect reciprocity
  • intergroup relations
  • relational multiplexity
  • reputation
  • social networks


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