As things deteriorate in a society, the temptation to hold fast to one's beliefs intensifies, and opposing those with whom we disagree seems ever more important. But Attila Szolnoki and Matjaž Perc think there might be another way. The pair have come up with a spatial public goods game that suggests we all might be better off with healthy doses of tolerance.
All the usual players factor into Szolnoki and Perc's game: cooperators, defectors and loners. But the pair added another breed into the mix, incorporating players with a certain degree of tolerance for the defectors among them. These players could choose to cooperate or abstain, depending on the actions of other players.
A diversity of tolerance proved optimal. When tolerant players had different thresholds for withstanding defection, they could actually turn the whole group towards cooperation in cases where defection would have otherwise dominated. Certain stable solutions only emerged when the number of players was large enough, lying largely undetected for smaller games. But once they emerged, they remained stable, even in small populations.