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Theor Popul Biol. 2006 May;69(3):339-48. Epub 2006 Feb 3.

Game theory and human evolution: a critique of some recent interpretations of experimental games.

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  • 1Institute for Theoretical Biology, Humboldt University, Invalidenstr. 43, 10115 Berlin, Germany.


Economists and psychologists have been testing Nash equilibrium predictions of game theory models of human behavior. In many instances, humans do not conform to the predictions. These results are of great interest to biologists because they also raise questions about well-known ESS models of cooperation. Cooperation in certain one-shot, anonymous interactions, and a willingness to punish others at a net cost to oneself are some of the most intriguing deviations from standard theory. One proposed explanation for these results that is receiving increasing attention invokes the cultural group selection of 'other regarding' social norms. We critically review this explanation. We conclude that experimental results reveal limits in two implicit models of cognitive structure commonly employed by economists and evolutionary biologists.

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