[Chapter] Strategies used by non-human primates in dynamic games


Recently, there has been great interest in the evolution of human decision-making behavior in order to better understand the origins of the limits and quirks of our behavior. Strategies evidenced by non-human primates in dynamic economic games can shed light on the behavior we see in humans by illuminating both the evolutionary history of these decisions and different cognitive abilities exhibited in the games. Experimental game theory is particularly amenable to studying this question with a comparative approach because basic action-payoff structures allow for highly similar experimental protocols across species. Comparative studies of common two-player games, including the Assurance Game, Matching Pennies, and the Ultimatum Game, have demonstrated broad commonalities among primates, as well as species differences in the strategies used in the different games. Notably, not only do outcomes in these games sometimes differ, but the same outcome may be reached through markedly different cognitive approaches. Disentangling the behavioral strategies employed by different animal species may uncover unique paths to a similar outcome beyond what can be derived from observing human behavior alone. Further, the diversity of strategies seen across species highlights the different social and ecological pressures that may have led to the evolution of the cognitive strategies used by humans, as well as highlighting situations in which cognitively simple strategies may be sufficient for successful play.

Smith MF, Watzek J, Brosnan SF (in press) Strategies used by non-human primates in dynamic games. In: Croson R, Capra M, Rigdon MI, Rosenblat T (eds) Handbook of Experimental Game Theory. Edward Elgar Publishing.