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Nature. 1999 Sep 23;401(6751):368-71.

Incorporating rules for responding into evolutionary games.

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School of Mathematics, University of Bristol, UK.


Evolutionary game theory is concerned with the evolutionarily stable outcomes of the process of natural selection. The theory is especially relevant when the fitness of an organism depends on the behaviour of other members of its population. Here we focus on the interaction between two organisms that have a conflict of interest. The standard approach to such two-player games is to assume that each player chooses a single action and that the evolutionarily stable action of each player is the best given the action of its opponent. We argue that, instead, most two-player games should be modelled as involving a series of interactions in which opponents negotiate the final outcome. Thus we should be concerned with evolutionarily stable negotiation rules rather than evolutionarily stable actions. The evolutionarily stable negotiation rule of each player is the best rule given the rule of its opponent. As we show, the action chosen as a result of the negotiation is not the best action given the action of the opponent. This conclusion necessitates a fundamental change in the way that evolutionary games are modelled.

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