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Journal Article

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Proceedings of the Royal Society B





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Most of the work in evolutionary game theory starts with a model of a social situation that gives rise to a particular payoff matrix and analyses how behaviour evolves through natural selection. Here, we invert this approach and ask, given a model of how individuals behave, how the payoff matrix will evolve through natural selection. In particular, we ask whether a prisoner’s dilemma game is stable against invasions by mutant genotypes that alter the payoffs. To answer this question, we develop a two-tiered framework with goal-oriented dynamics at the behavioural time scale and a diploid population genetic model at the evolutionary time scale. Our results are two-fold: first, we show that the prisoner’s dilemma is subject to invasions by mutants that provide incentives for cooperation to their partners, and that the resulting game is a coordination game similar to the hawk – dove game. Second, we find that for a large class of mutants and symmetric games, a stable genetic polymorphism will exist in the locus determining the payoff matrix, resulting in a complex pattern of behavioural diversity in the population. Our results highlight the importance of considering the evolution of payoff matrices to understand the evolution of animal social systems.


At the time of publication, author Erol Akçay was affiliated with the University of Tennessee. Currently, he is a faculty member at the Department of Biology at the University of Pennsylvania.



Date Posted: 30 September 2015

This document has been peer reviewed.