, Volume 195, Issue 2, pp 511–528 | Cite as

The implications of learning across perceptually and strategically distinct situations

  • Daniel Cownden
  • Kimmo Eriksson
  • Pontus Strimling


Game theory is a formal approach to behavior that focuses on the strategic aspect of situations. The game theoretic approach originates in economics but has been embraced by scholars across disciplines, including many philosophers and biologists. This approach has an important weakness: the strategic aspect of a situation, which is its defining quality in game theory, is often not its most salient quality in human (or animal) cognition. Evidence from a wide range of experiments highlights this shortcoming. Previous theoretical and empirical work has sought to address this weakness by considering learning across an ensemble of multiple games simultaneously. Here we extend this framework, incorporating artificial neural networks, to allow for an investigation of the interaction between the perceptual and functional similarity of the games composing the larger ensemble. Using this framework, we conduct a theoretical investigation of a population that encounters both stag hunts and prisoner’s dilemmas, two situations that are strategically different but which may or may not be perceptually similar.


Game theory Learning Multiple games Bounded rationality Framing effects Artificial neural networks 



All authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the Swedish Research Council, grants 2009-2390 and 2009-2678, and the constructive comments of four anonymous reviewers. DC is also grateful for support from the John Templeton Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel Cownden
    • 1
  • Kimmo Eriksson
    • 2
    • 3
  • Pontus Strimling
    • 2
    • 4
  1. 1.School of BiologyUniversity of St AndrewsFifeUK
  2. 2.Center for the Study of Cultural EvolutionStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden
  3. 3.School of Education, Culture and CommunicationMälardalen UniversityVästeråsSweden
  4. 4.Stockholm Institute for Future StudiesStockholmSweden

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