Expected utility violations evolve under status-based selection mechanisms

Eric S. Dickson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The expected utility theory of decision making under uncertainty, a cornerstone of modern economics, assumes that humans linearly weight "utilities" for different possible outcomes by the probabilities with which these outcomes occur. Despite the theory's intuitive appeal, both from normative and from evolutionary perspectives, many experiments demonstrate systematic, though poorly understood, patterns of deviation from EU predictions. This paper offers a novel theoretical account of such patterns of deviation by demonstrating that EU violations can emerge from evolutionary selection when individual "status" affects inclusive fitness. In humans, battles for resources and social standing involve high-stakes decision making, and assortative mating ensures that status matters for fitness outcomes. The paper therefore proposes grounding the study of decision making under uncertainty in an evolutionary game-theoretic framework.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)650-654
    Number of pages5
    JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Oct 7 2008


    • Behavioral ecology
    • Decision making under uncertainty
    • Evolutionary game theory

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Statistics and Probability
    • Modeling and Simulation
    • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
    • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
    • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
    • Applied Mathematics

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