Phase Transitions and Volunteering in Spatial Public Goods Games
We present a simple yet effective mechanism promoting cooperation under full anonymity by allowing for voluntary participation in public goods games. This natural extension leads to “rock-scissors-paper”–type cyclic dominance of the three strategies, cooperate, defect, and loner. In spatial settings with players arranged on a regular lattice, this results in interesting dynamical properties and intriguing spatiotemporal patterns. In particular, variations of the value of the public good leads to transitions between one-, two-, and three-strategy states which either are in the class of directed percolation or show interesting analogies to Ising-type models. Although volunteering is incapable of stabilizing cooperation, it efficiently prevents successful spreading of selfish behavior.