QSS 30.04: Evolutionary Game Theory and Applications

ORC Course Description: The course introduces basic concepts in evolutionary game theory, including evolutionarily stable strategies, replicator dynamics, finite populations, and games on networks, along with applications to social evolution, particularly to understanding human cooperation.

Prerequisites: Math 3. The student should be familiar with calculus, and basic concepts in ordinary differential equations and probability. Programing skills helpful, but not required.

Suggested Textbooks:

Nowak, M. A. (2006). Evolutionary dynamics. Harvard University Press.

Sigmund, K. (2010). The calculus of selfishness. Princeton University Press.

Grading Formula: Attendance & Participation (20%) + Homework Problem Sets (40%) + Final Project + 15m Presentation (40%).

Important Dates


Tentative lecture plan which may be subject to further changes.

Week Lecture Readings
Lec 1 Evolutionary Games: Introduction & Overview Nowak, M. A., & Sigmund, K. (2004). Evolutionary dynamics of biological games. Science, 303(5659), 793-799.
Lec 2 Stability Concepts: Nash Equilibrium vs. Evolutionarily Stable Strategy
Lec 3 Replicator Equations and Its Connection with Ecological Dynamics
Lec 4 Social Dilemmas of Cooperation Kollock, P. (1998). Social dilemmas: The anatomy of cooperation. Annual Review of Sociology, 183-214.
Lec 5 Rules for Cooperation Nowak, M. A. (2006). Five rules for the evolution of cooperation. Science, 314(5805), 1560-1563.
Lec 6 Repeated Games Binmore, K. G., & Samuelson, L. (1992). Evolutionary stability in repeated games played by finite automata. Journal of Economic Theory, 57(2), 278-305.
Lec 7 Beyond Pairwise Interactions: Multi-Person Games Hardin, G., (1998) Extensions of "the tragedy of the commons". Science, 280(5364): 682-683.
Lec 8 Spatial Games Nowak, M. A., & May, R. M. (1992). Evolutionary games and spatial chaos. Nature, 359(6398), 826-829.
Lec 9 Adaptive Dynamics Dieckmann, U., & Law, R. (1996). The dynamical theory of coevolution: a derivation from stochastic ecological processes. Journal of Mathematical Biology, 34(5-6), 579-612.
Lec 10 Evolutionary Branching Hofbauer, J., & Sigmund, K. (2003). Evolutionary game dynamics. Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, 40(4), 479-519.
Doebeli, M., Hauert, C., & Killingback, T. (2004). The evolutionary origin of cooperators and defectors. Science, 306(5697), 859-862.
Lec 11 Finite Populations I Nowak, M. A., Sasaki, A., Taylor, C., & Fudenberg, D. (2004). Emergence of cooperation and evolutionary stability in finite populations. Nature, 428(6983), 646-650.
Traulsen, A., Claussen, J. C., & Hauert, C. (2005). Coevolutionary dynamics: from finite to infinite populations. Physical Review Letters, 95(23), 238701.
Lec 12 Finite Population II
Lec 13 Evolutionary Graph Theory Lieberman, E., Hauert, C., & Nowak, M. A. (2005). Evolutionary dynamics on graphs. Nature, 433(7023), 312-316.
Ohtsuki, H., Hauert, C., Lieberman, E., & Nowak, M. A. (2006). A simple rule for the evolution of cooperation on graphs and social networks. Nature, 441(7092), 502-505.
Perc, M., & Szolnoki, A. (2010). Coevolutionary games--a mini review. BioSystems, 99(2), 109-125.
Lec 14 Vaccination Dilemma Bauch, C. T., & Earn, D. J. (2004). Vaccination and the theory of games. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 101(36), 13391-13394.
Lec 15 Evolutionary Dynamics of In-group Favoritism Masuda, N., & Fu, F. (2015). Evolutionary models of in-group favoritism. F1000Prime Reports, 7, 27.
Lec 16 Evolution of Homophily Fu, F., Nowak, M.A., Christakis, N.A., & Fowler, J.H.(2012) The evolution of homophily. Scientific reports, 2: 845.
Week 9 Final Project Presentations TBD

Course Projects and Presentation Schedule


Approximately 4 weeks are given to complete the project. The instructor will suggest project ideas in the third week, but you are allowed to propose your own, which has to be approved by the instructor in the fourth week at the latest. Each project presentation is limited to 15 minutes and preferably in the style of TED talks.

Presentation Schedule Download

Course projects are listed in the alphabetical order of student names, and will be updated once more progresses are made by the students.

Name Project Title
Sahil Abbi & Sean K. McGowan Social Dilemma of Land Privatization
Alexander C. Beals & Kyu Hyeon Kim An Evolutionary Game Theory Approach to Flu Vaccination Dynamics
Wei Liang Samuel Ching & Bruno Korbar Exploring winning strategeis in iterated Prisoner's Dilemma using reinforcement learning algorithms
Madison M. Hazard & Tsz Ki Lit Virulence and Tragedy of the Commons
Jared E. Hodes & Jakob Y. Stern Cooperation and Incentives in Cryptocurrency Mining
Kevin Hu Social Networks: Framework Structures that Champion the Distribution of Fake News
Heyi Jiang Refugee crises through the lens of evolutionary game theory
Cindy Li & Alma Wang Understanding betta fish fighting and mating behavior
Derek H. Lue & William L. Synnott The Altruistic Balanced Paired Kidney Exchange: Evolutionary Game Theory as a Model to Determine the Value of Human Altruism
Trent B. Shillingford Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Adoption
Dogukan B. Yucel Population Dynamics of Extremist Ideologies -- Replicator Dynamics with Game-Social Environment Feedback

Course Policies

Honor Principle

Collaborations (giving and receiving assistance) during closed-book exams and quizzes are strictly prohibited. Any form of plagiarism is not allowed in the final project. If you have questions, please ask the instructor before doing and should always refer to Academic Honor Principle.

Accessibility Policy

Students with learning, physical, or psychiatric disabilities enrolled in this course that may need disability-related classroom accommodations are encouraged to make an office appointment to see your instructor before the end of the second week of the term. All discussions will remain confidential, although the Student Accessibility Services office may be consulted to discuss appropriate implementation of any accommodation requested. At such a meeting please provide your instructor with a copy of a disability registration form, which lists the accommodations recommended for the student by Student Accessibility Services within the Academic Skills Center. The person you might want to contact at the Academic Skills center is Ward Newmeyer, Director of Student Accessibility Services 205 Collis Center - (603) 646-9900.

Student Religious Observances

Some students may wish to take part in religious observances that fall during this academic term. Should you have a religious observance that conflicts with your participation in the course, please come speak with your instructor before the end of the second week of the term to discuss appropriate accommodations.

Late Policy

By "deadline" we really mean it. On the condition of accepting the penalty for turning in the final project report late (that is, 5% each additional day), however, an extension of maximum 4 days will be granted on a case-by-case basis. In exceptional circumstances, students with disabilities should inform the instructor of their accommodation requests well in advance, so that the instructor will have sufficient time to work with Student Accessibility Services to provide appropriate accommodations.