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Protean Primates: The Evolution of Adaptive Unpredictability in Competition and Courtship

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  • Geoffrey F. Miller

Abstract

Machiavellian intelligence evolves because it lets primates predict and manipulate each others' behavior. But game theory suggests that evolution will not stop there: predictive capacities tend to select for unpredictability in counter-strategies, just as many competitive games favor "mixed" (stochastic) strategies. For example, prey animals often evolve "protean" (adaptively unpredictable) evasion behavior to foil the predictive pursuit tactics used by their predators. The same adaptive logic should apply to more abstract social tactics, but protean social behavior remains overlooked in primatology and psychology, because complex order rather than useful chaos has been considered the hallmark of evolved adaptations. This chapter re- views the notions of psychological--selection from evolutionary theory, mixed strategies from game theory, and protean behavior from behavioral ecology. It then presents six possible types of social proteanism in primates, and develops a model of how sexual selection through mate choice could have elaborated primate social proteanism into human creative intelligence.

Suggested Citation

  • Geoffrey F. Miller, "undated". "Protean Primates: The Evolution of Adaptive Unpredictability in Competition and Courtship," ELSE working papers 046, ESRC Centre on Economics Learning and Social Evolution.
  • Handle: RePEc:els:esrcls:046
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