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Does evolution lead to maximizing behavior?

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  • Alger, Ingela
  • Lehmann, Laurent
  • Weibull, Jörgen W.

Abstract

A long-standing question in biology and economics is whether individual organisms evolve to behave as if they were striving to maximize some goal function. We here formalize the \as if" question in a patch-structured population in which individuals obtain material payoffs from (perhaps very complex) multimove social interactions. These material payoffs determine personal fitness and, ultimately, invasion fitness. We ask what goal function, if any, individuals will appear to be maximizing, in uninvadable population states, when what is really being maximized is invasion fitness at the genetic level. We reach two broad conclusions. First, no simple and general individual-based goal function emerges from the analysis. This stems from the fact that invasion fitness is a complex multi-generational measure of evolutionary success. Second, when selection is weak, all multi-generational effects of selection can be summarized in a neutral type- distribution quantifying identity-by-descent within patches. Individuals then behave as if they were striving to maximize a weighted sum of material payoffs (own and others). At an uninvadable state it is as if individuals choose their actions and play a Nash equilibrium of a game with a goal function that combines selfishness (own material payoff), Kantian morality (group material payoff if everyone does the same), and local rivalry (material payoff differences).

Suggested Citation

  • Alger, Ingela & Lehmann, Laurent & Weibull, Jörgen W., 2015. "Does evolution lead to maximizing behavior?," TSE Working Papers 15-561, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
  • Handle: RePEc:tse:wpaper:29133
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Ingela Alger & Jörgen W. Weibull, 2013. "Homo Moralis—Preference Evolution Under Incomplete Information and Assortative Matching," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 81(6), pages 2269-2302, November.
    2. Drew Fudenberg & Jean Tirole, 1991. "Game Theory," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262061414, December.
    3. Martin J. Osborne & Ariel Rubinstein, 1994. "A Course in Game Theory," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262650401, December.
    4. John M. McNamara & Catherine E. Gasson & Alasdair I Houston, 1999. "Incorporating rules for responding into evolutionary games," Nature, Nature, vol. 401(6751), pages 368-371, September.
    5. Lehmann, Laurent & Rousset, François, 2009. "Perturbation expansions of multilocus fixation probabilities for frequency-dependent selection with applications to the Hill–Robertson effect and to the joint evolution of helping and punishment," Theoretical Population Biology, Elsevier, vol. 76(1), pages 35-51.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ingela Alger & Laurent Lehmann, 2023. "Evolution of Semi-Kantian Preferences in Two-Player Assortative Interactions with Complete and Incomplete Information and Plasticity," Dynamic Games and Applications, Springer, vol. 13(4), pages 1288-1319, December.
    2. Priklopil, Tadeas & Lehmann, Laurent, 2021. "Metacommunities, fitness and gradual evolution," Theoretical Population Biology, Elsevier, vol. 142(C), pages 12-35.
    3. Bezin, Emeline & Ponthière, Gregory, 2019. "The tragedy of the commons and socialization: Theory and policy," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 98(C).
    4. Ennio Bilancini & Leonardo Boncinelli & Alessandro Tampieri, 2021. "Strategy Assortativity and the Evolution of Parochialism," DEM Discussion Paper Series 21-20, Department of Economics at the University of Luxembourg.
    5. Ingela Alger & Jörgen W. Weibull, 2019. "Evolutionary Models of Preference Formation," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 11(1), pages 329-354, August.
    6. Alger, Ingela & Weibull, Jörgen W. & Lehmann, Laurent, 2020. "Evolution of preferences in structured populations: Genes, guns, and culture," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 185(C).
    7. Alger, Ingela & Weibull, Jörgen W., 2016. "Evolution and Kantian morality," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 56-67.
    8. Polowczyk Jan, 2021. "A synthesis of evolutionary and behavioural economics," Economics and Business Review, Sciendo, vol. 7(3), pages 16-34, September.
    9. Alger, Ingela & Lehmann, Laurent & Weibull, Jörgen W., 2018. "Evolution of preferences in group-structured populations: genes, guns, and culture," TSE Working Papers 18-888, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE), revised Oct 2019.
    10. Alexander J. Stewart & Nolan McCarty & Joanna J. Bryson, 2018. "Polarization under rising inequality and economic decline," Papers 1807.11477, arXiv.org, revised Apr 2020.
    11. Vaios Koliofotis, 2021. "Applying evolutionary methods in economics: progress or pitfall?," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 23(2), pages 203-223, July.
    12. Grafton, R. Quentin & Kompas, Tom & Long, Ngo Van, 2017. "A brave new world? Kantian–Nashian interaction and the dynamics of global climate change mitigation," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 99(C), pages 31-42.
    13. Bilancini, Ennio & Boncinelli, Leonardo & Wu, Jiabin, 2018. "The interplay of cultural intolerance and action-assortativity for the emergence of cooperation and homophily," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 1-18.

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    Keywords

    maximizing behavior; game theory; inclusive fitness; invadability; Nash equilibrium;
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