This paper offers a new and robust model of the emergence and persistence of cooperation. In the model, interactions are anonymous, the population is well-mixed, and the evolutionary process selects strategies according to material payoffs.
The cooperation problem is modelled as a game similar to Prisoner’s Dilemma, but there is an outside option of nonparticipation and the payoff to mutual cooperation is stochastic; with positive probability, this
payoff exceeds that from cheating against a cooperator.
Under mild conditions, mutually beneficial cooperation occurs in equilibrium. This is possible because the non-participation option holds down the equilibrium frequency of cheating.