The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Game Theory and Biology

  • Olof Leimar
Reference work entry


Darwinian evolutionary dynamics and learning dynamics provide the foundation for game theory in biology. The theory is used to analyse interactions between individuals. Animal fighting behaviour, cooperative interactions and signalling interactions are examples of important areas of application. The payoffs to strategies in biological games represent Darwinian fitness, viz. survival and reproductive success. The strategies can be behaviour patterns, but also choices of phenotypic properties such as becoming a male or a female. The evolutionary analysis of allocation to male and female function is one of the most successful applications of game theory in biology.


Alternative reproductive strategies Class structured populations Cooperation Deterministic evolutionary dynamics Division of labour Evolutionarily stable strategies Evolutionary theory Game theory and biology Learning and evolution in games Life-history strategy Mate choice Mixed strategy equilibria Natural selection Playing the field Prisoner’s Dilemma Producer–scrounger game Reciprocity Reproductive value Sex ratio theory Signalling Tit for tat 

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Olof Leimar
    • 1
  1. 1.