OVERRIDE

The Survival Game

How Game Theory Explains the Biology of Cooperation and Competition

David P. Barash

Holt Paperbacks

Humans, like bacteria, woodchucks, chimpanzees, and other animals, compete or cooperate to get food, shelter, territory, and other resources. But how do we decide whether to muscle out or team up with the competition?

In The Survival Game, David P. Barash synthesizes the newest ideas from the exciting world of game theory—an amalgam of logic, psychology, economics, and biology—to explore and explain why people make the decisions they do: the give-and-take of spouses in determining an evening's plans, the behavior of investors in a market bubble, the maneuvers of generals on a battlefield, all of which are remarkably similar to the mating and fighting strategies of "less rational" animals. Barash describes the classic Prisoner's Dilemma of game theory, in which a decision can carry a heavy price when there's no way to know if your partner will stick with you or look out for his own interests, and finds that an RNA virus behaves by the same rules. In the Hawk-Dove Game, he looks at how players change their strategies—to be either aggressive or yielding—when a third person enters the picture, and draws analogies to the territorial battles among speckled wood butterflies. And notorious strategies arising from the Game of Chicken, tit-for-tat, and follow the leader turn up in examples as disparate as World War II's submarine war and the mating antics of the yellow dung fly.

In this lively and engrossing study, Barash ultimately sheds light on what makes our decisions human, and what we can glean from game theory and the natural world as we negotiate and compete with others in our daily lives.

BOOK EXCERPTS

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The Survival Game
1The Games We All Play: What They Are, Why They MatterIn Molière's play Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, Monsieur Jourdain is astonished to learn that all of his life, without knowing it, he has been speaking prose. We are a bit like M. Jourdain: without knowing it, we all play games. It is not necessary to be athletic, or competitive, or especially frolicsome. Game playing is a big part of life. And since we are full-time players, it behooves us to understand what's going on.Here goes.What's the Big Idea?Most of us assume that life is straightforward, essentially under our own
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REVIEWS

Praise for The Survival Game

"Barash combines game theory with evolutionary biology, arguing that the strategic choices people make as they go through life [are] encoded in their brains by millions of years of evolution . . . His examples-including farm economics, jungle mating strategies and World War II battlefields-are convincing."-The Washington Post

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • David P. Barash

  • A professor of psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle, zoologist David P. Barash is the author of more than a dozen books, including The Myth of Monogamy (0-8050-7136-9) and The Mammal in the Mirror. He lives in Redmond, Washington.
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Available Formats and Book Details

The Survival Game

How Game Theory Explains the Biology of Cooperation and Competition

David P. Barash

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FROM THE PUBLISHER

Holt Paperbacks

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