Evolutionarily stable preferences

Ingela Alger


The 50-year old concept of an evolutionarily stable strategy provided a key toolfor theorists to model ultimate drivers of behaviour in social interactions. Fordecades, economists ignored ultimate drivers and used models in which individ-uals choose strategies based on their preferences—a proximate mechanism forbehaviour—and the distribution of preferences in the population was taken tobe fixed and given. This article summarizes some key findings in the literatureon evolutionarily stable preferences, which in the past three decades has pro-posed models that combine the two approaches: individuals inherit theirpreferences, the preferences determine their strategy choices, which in turn deter-mine evolutionary success. One objectiveis to highlight complementarities andpotential avenues for future collaboration between biologists and economists.


Ingela Alger, Evolutionarily stable preferences, IAST Working Paper, n. 22-144, August 2022, revised December 2022.

Published in

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol. 378, n. 1876, May 2023