The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Learning and Evolution in Games: ESS

  • Ross Cressman
Reference work entry


The ESS concept, developed in the 1970s to predict through static fitness comparisons the evolutionary outcome of individual behaviours in a biological species, emerged as the cornerstone of evolutionary game theory. This theory is now as central to the analysis of strategic interactions in the social and management sciences as in the life sciences. The ESS also addresses stability questions for dynamics describing how individual behaviours evolve over time. Here, we summarize ESS theory as originally developed for symmetric two-player games and then discuss generalizations to population games, extensive form games, games with continuous strategy spaces, asymmetric and bimatrix games.


Asymmetric games Asymptotic stability Backward induction Best response dynamics Bimatrix games Buyer–seller game Common interest games Continuously stable strategy Direct ESS ESS (evolutionarily stable strategy) ESSet Evolutionary dynamics Evolutionary game theory Extensive form games Invasion barrier Local superiority Nash demand game Nash equilibrium (NE) NE component Neighbourhood invader strategy Neighbourhood superiority Neutrally stable strategies Normal form games Owner–intruder game Partnership games Pervasive strategy Playing-the-field models Population games Prisoner’s dilemma game Replicator equation Rock–scissors–paper game Selten, R. Strictly stable game Symmetrical games Two-species ESS War of attrition game 

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ross Cressman
    • 1
  1. 1.