Learning between human social groups may be key to sustaining the environment, according to a new study that uses mathematical modeling to understand what factors most influence societies to conserve natural resources.
Researchers at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS), based at UT, developed a model to simulate how societies with different social structures and institutions manage their resources. In the model, true to form, societies that over-exploited their environment went extinct, and societies survived when individuals cooperated by limiting their personal consumption.
But the researchers went further: they wanted to understand what factors influenced individual cooperation, enabling the societies to survive. The key appeared to be social groups.
In the model, societies that were divided into multiple groups were four times more likely to conserve their resources and survive than societies that had no sub-group divisions. The model showed that societies broken up into multiple groups evolved better institutions for managing their resources because each group could learn from the successes and failures of the others.
Read the story on the NIMBioS website.