Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



In Evolution and the mechanisms of decision making. Ernst Strüngmann Forum Report (vol. 11, pp. 1-17). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012.


Copyright 2012 MIT Press. Used by permission.


The study of games and decisions has long been guided by a philosophical discourse on concepts of rationality and their implications. This discourse has led to a large body of mathematical work and kept generations of researchers busy, but few serious attempts have been made to understand decision making in the real world. Over the last decades, however, decision theory has moved toward the sciences and developed its “taste for the facts.” Research is now guided by experimental economics, cognitive psychology, behavioral biology, and—most recently—neuroscience. Despite the increasingly empirical leanings of decision science, the explanatory power of evolutionary theory has been neglected. We proposed this Strüngmann Forum to rectify this oversight, with the goal of initiating an alternative to the existing axiom-based decision theory by developing a theory of decision making founded on evolutionary principles. Tackling this task requires a broad disciplinary base, and thus we assembled a group of researchers from a diverse range of fi elds—including evolutionary biology; cognitive, evolutionary, comparative, and developmental psychology; neuroscience; computer science; economics, and philosophy—to approach this goal.