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Publication Detail
Pain expressiveness and altruistic behavior: An exploration using agent-based modeling
© 2015 International Association for the Study of Pain.Predictions which invoke evolutionary mechanisms are hard to test. Agent-based modeling in artificial life offers a way to simulate behaviors and interactions in specific physical or social environments over many generations. The outcomes have implications for understanding adaptive value of behaviors in context. Pain-related behavior in animals is communicated to other animals that might protect or help, or might exploit or predate. An agent-based model simulated the effects of displaying or not displaying pain (expresser/nonexpresser strategies) when injured and of helping, ignoring, or exploiting another in pain (altruistic/nonaltruistic/selfish strategies). Agents modeled in MATLAB interacted at random while foraging (gaining energy); random injury interrupted foraging for a fixed time unless help from an altruistic agent, who paid an energy cost, speeded recovery. Environmental and social conditions also varied, and each model ran for 10,000 iterations. Findings were meaningful in that, in general, contingencies that evident from experimental work with a variety of mammals, over a few interactions, were replicated in the agent-based model after selection pressure over many generations. More energy-demanding expression of pain reduced its frequency in successive generations, and increasing injury frequency resulted in fewer expressers and altruists. Allowing exploitation of injured agents decreased expression of pain to near zero, but altruists remained. Decreasing costs or increasing benefits of helping hardly changed its frequency, whereas increasing interaction rate between injured agents and helpers diminished the benefits to both. Agent-based modeling allows simulation of complex behaviors and environmental pressures over evolutionary time.
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