Fredrik Jansson 2013
Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation 16 (3) 2
Ethnocentrism refers to the tendency to behave differently towards strangers based only on whether they belong to the ingroup or the outgroup. It is a widespread phenomenon that can be triggered by arbitrary cues, but the origins of which are not clearly understood. In a recent simulation model by Hammond and Axelrod, an ingroup bias evolves in the prisoners' dilemma game. However, it will be argued here that the model does little to advance our understanding of ethnocentrism. The model assumes a spatial structure in which agents interact only with their immediate neighbourhood, populated mostly by clones, and the marker becomes an approximate cue of whether the partner is one. It will be shown that agents with an ingroup bias are successful compared to unconditional co-operators since they only exclude non-clones, but are outcompeted by less error-prone kin identifiers. Thus, the results of the simulations can be explained by a simple form of kin selection. These findings illustrate how spatial assumptions can alter a model to the extent that it no longer describes the phenomenon under study.