Has evolutionary game theory ever been used to successfully describe an ecosystem or a reasonably closed subsystem of the economy? A frequently used example is about side-blotched lizards but I don't know of any others. And has it ever been proven that in this case the main factor is really relative fitness of strategies and not some other factor, such as the dynamics of gene recombination?

  • $\begingroup$ maybe this doesn't belong to economics but rather biology or something of that sort? $\endgroup$
    – snoram
    May 8, 2015 at 15:09
  • $\begingroup$ @snoram You were right, so I slightly reformulated the question. Of course I would be happiest to see examples where this tool is used to predict/explain economic phenomena. $\endgroup$
    – Giskard
    May 8, 2015 at 16:33
  • $\begingroup$ my understanding is that evolutionary game theory was absolutely revolutionary in the field of evolution - John Maynard Smith established himself as one of the giants of the field. I assume you've seen Dawkins's classic The Selfish Gene, which devotes quite a bit of time to illustrating the concept of an evolutionarily stable strategy and its implications. I don't know enough to offer concrete examples (and too much ecology might be off-topic here anyway), but my impression is that it's much more than just side-blotched lizards... $\endgroup$ May 9, 2015 at 0:41
  • $\begingroup$ I have read The Selfish Gene, I find evolutionary game theory brilliant, but to me this is not scientific proof that the model describes what is actually happening. To push another biological example: The idea of Lamarckism was also accepted at one point and it took very rigorous reasoning to prove that it was not in fact the main force behind evolution. I am not saying that evolutionary game theory is wrong - I am trying to collect arguments that support it. $\endgroup$
    – Giskard
    May 9, 2015 at 5:46

2 Answers 2


You're looking at it from a particularly biological point of view. I know nothing of side-blotched lizards, but I can say that evolutionary game theory is often used for equilibrium selection. In games with more than one equilibrium (whether it be Nash or otherwise), evolutionary game theory can allow us to select a particular equilibrium that is a better prediction than others in that a population is, in some sense, more likely to reach it and stay there than it is to reach and stay at other equilibria. Have a look at Population Games and Evolutionary Dynamics by William H. Sandholm if you want to see more of how economists use evolutionary game theory. What your question gets at is really more about creating a model with evolution to describe an ecosystem rather than evolutionary game theory, though the two are not unrelated.


Didnt Prof Robert Auman win the Knoble Prize for Game Theory in 2005? I think that he used it in an economic scenario. Look him up.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This doesn't seem to be an answer, this is more of a comment. And it is wrong, Aumann didn't win the Nobel prize for evolutionary game theory. $\endgroup$ May 8, 2015 at 20:07
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    $\begingroup$ Indeed - have to like the alternate spelling for the prize though. $\endgroup$
    – Lumi
    May 8, 2015 at 22:31
  • $\begingroup$ As @The Almighty Bob said, Aumann didn't get the prize for "evolutionary game theory". He did get it for "game theory", but the "evolutionary" refers to a very specific subfield mostly not associated with Aumann's work. $\endgroup$
    – philE
    May 9, 2015 at 16:50

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