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game theorySpieltheorie (ger.)

  • Mathematical treatment of the processes involved in making decisions and developing strategies, esp. in situations of competition or conflict, applied originally to games of skill and to economics, and later to many other fields including biology and psychology. (OED 2013)
    social behaviour

    John von Neumann ‘Mathematical Theory of Games’

    Anonymus (1937). Princeton Alumni Weekly, 19 Mar. 513. (acc. to OED).

    theory of games
    Anonymus (1940). Announcement: University of Washington (Seattle): von Neumann: Theory of games (evening lecture). Amer. Math. Monthly 47, 255.
    game theory
    Neumann, J. von & Morgenstern, O. (1944). Theory of Games and Economic Behavior: 635.

    Information theory, cybernetics, game theory and decision theory have been the main contributors to this movement. All of these have provided insight into possible organizational properties of living systems and have at the same time suggested ways of analyzing biological data which take account of such interrelations.

    Waterman, T.H. (1962). Revolution for biology. American Scientist 50, 548-569: 562.


    It is in game theoretical models of evolutionary processes that the dangers inherent in metaphor become important considerations. Game theory with its notions of “pay-off”, “utility”, “strategy” smacks strongly of purposive thinking. It is not only the words and their connotations which are a danger in this direction. Game theory has grown out of research in economics and psychology and a number of the concepts are defined purposively. If a game theoretical attack on evolutionary problems is to be fruitful it will be necessary to strip the metaphor of its aspects of will and purpose, to discard what I have called the “exogenous qualities” of the metaphorical elements.

    Lewontin, R.C. (1963). Models, mathematics and metaphors. Synthese 15, 222-244: 243.


    I decided to learn something about game theory because I had become interested in the evolution of threats and aggressive behaviour, and for quite different reasons in the evolution of the sex ratio.

    Maynard Smith, J. (1972). On Evolution: 13.


    game theory A mathematical theory dealing with the determination of optimum strategies in competitive situations involving two or more competitors.

    Lincoln, R.J., Boxshall, G.A. & Clark, P.F. (1982). A Dictionary of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics: 98.

    Spieltheorie [als] allgemeine Theorie des rationalen Entscheidens unter Bedingungen strategischer Interdependenz der Akteure
    Hegselmann, R. (1995). Spieltheorie. Hist. Wb. Philos. 9, 1392-1396: 1392.