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International Journal of Game Theory

, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 93–113 | Cite as

The computational complexity of evolutionarily stable strategies

  • K. Etessami
  • A. Lochbihler
Original Paper

Abstract

The concept of evolutionarily stable strategies (ESS) has been central to applications of game theory in evolutionary biology, and it has also had an influence on the modern development of game theory. A regular ESS is an important refinement the ESS concept. Although there is a substantial literature on computing evolutionarily stable strategies, the precise computational complexity of determining the existence of an ESS in a symmetric two-player strategic form game has remained open, though it has been speculated that the problem is \(\mathsf{NP}\)-hard. In this paper we show that determining the existence of an ESS is both \({\mathsf{NP}}\)-hard and \({\mathsf{coNP}}\)-hard, and that the problem is contained in \(\Sigma_{2}^{\rm p}\) , the second level of the polynomial time hierarchy. We also show that determining the existence of a regular ESS is indeed \({\mathsf{NP}}\)-complete. Our upper bounds also yield algorithms for computing a (regular) ESS, if one exists, with the same complexities.

Keywords

Computational complexity Game theory Evolutionarily stable strategies Evolutionary biology Nash equilibria 

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Copyright information

© Springer Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory for Foundations of Computer Science, School of InformaticsUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghScotland, UK
  2. 2.Fakultät für Mathematik und InformatikUniversität PassauPassauGermany

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