Game theory models something very relevant to psychologists (in particular social psychologists): conflict and cooperation between decision-makers. Unfortunately, classical game theory demands that these decision makers are rational (in a mathematically precise sense). This definition of rationality is challenged empirically (by work like Tversky & Shafir) and on a theoretical level (by complexity results on finding or approximating Nash equilibria: a PPAD-complete problem).

Economists and mathematicians (and others) have taken two approaches to overcome this problem. The first is top-down approach of limiting the agent's abilities from an all-powerful rational agent down; this is the bounded rationality approach. The other is the bottom-up approach of evolutionary game theory: start with the simplest agents (that can't even make decisions) and have natural selection, imitation, or another simple dynamic process evolve the population over time. This seems to dove-tail nicely with the biogenic approach to cognition.

Are there examples of the tools of evolutionary game theory being used in social psychology or other sub-disciplines of the cognitive sciences? Is there a survey (or book) on EGT's impact on the cognitive sciences?

Related question

What are good examples of applying dynamical systems in cognitive science?

  • $\begingroup$ Since you asked about sub-disciplines: I read 'Meaningful Games' (Clark), which is mostly about how people choose their words based on what they think someone else may understand, and how grammar systems emerge from such factors, based around game theory. It wasn't very useful for me at the time, wanting to look for grammar improvements, maybe a bit more useful to you, looking for aspects of social interaction. $\endgroup$
    – dwn
    Commented Jan 11, 2015 at 7:37

1 Answer 1


There are some mentions of Evolutionary Game Theory in this Behavior & Brain Sciences (BBS) article by Andrew Colman (2003). The main article itself only has a brief section on EGT. However, like all BBS articles, there are short commentary articles after the main article. A few of these deal directly with EGT. I was able to find the relevant articles within the larger document by doing a find for "evolutionary game theory".

There are a few references throughout the BBS article to studies within cognitive science using EGT. One particularly relevant one to your question is Colman & Wilson (1997). They modeled antisocial personality disorder in an evolutionary game, to show that stable states arise in a variety of situations in which some of the agents behave antisocially. They treat this as a model for explaining why there seems to be a relatively stable proportion of people who behave in an antisocial manner across societies.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for this; I am a huge fan of BBS for reviews. I will read through it. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 17:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.