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Basic games, where each individual chooses between two strategies, illustrate several issues that immediately emerge from the standard approach that applies strategic reasoning, based on rational decisions, to predict population behavior where no rationality is assumed. These include how mutual cooperation (which corresponds to the best outcome from the population perspective) can evolve when the only individually rational choice is to defect, illustrated by the Prisoner’s Dilemma (PD) game, and how individuals can randomize between two strategies when neither is individually rational, illustrated by the Battle of the Sexes (BS) game that models male-female conflict over parental investment in offspring. We examine these questions from an evolutionary perspective where the evolutionary dynamics includes an impulsive effect that models sudden changes in collective population behavior. For the PD game, we show analytically that cooperation can either coexist with defection or completely take over the population, depending on the strength of the impulse. By extending these results for the PD game, we also show that males and females each evolve to a single strategy in the BS game when the impulsive effect is strong and that weak impulses stabilize the randomized strategies of this game.


This article was originally published in PLoS ONE, 5(3): e9882.