​Co-evolution of Cognitive Processing, Social Behavior, and the Environment

  • TWCF Number:


  • Project Duration:

    April 1, 2017 - September 30, 2019

  • Core Funding Area:

    Big Questions

  • Priority:

    Diverse Intelligences

  • Region:

    North America

  • Amount Awarded:


Director: Professor David Rand

Institution: Yale University

Of the dazzling array of intelligences in nature, none is as complex as the human mind. The intricate webs we weave between one another allow us to create large-scale cooperative societies. How has natural selection shaped our unparalleled social intelligence? This project investigates that question using innovative computational models. Integrating evolutionary game theory with cognitive psychology, it explores the co-evolution of cognitive processing, social behavior, and the environment.

Our agent-based model will investigate how social decision-making processes evolved, and how these cognitive processes feed back into the environment that shaped them. Through a series of simulations, we will examine the evolution of automatic and controlled processes, the evolutionary outcomes of choosing to cooperate and compete for resources, and the ways in which agents’ behaviors and choices influence their environment. We will also explore the consequences of individual decision-making processes in group-structured populations.

The models we develop will shed light on how to motivate individuals to cooperate and plan. By discovering what kinds of environments foster cooperative behavior and long-term thinking, the research will also enrich social well-being.


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