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Evolution and the Mechanisms of Decision Making$
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Peter Hammerstein and Jeffrey R. Stevens

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780262018081

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262018081.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM MIT PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.mitpress.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright The MIT Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MITSO for personal use.date: 21 May 2022

Robustness in a Variable Environment

Robustness in a Variable Environment

(p.195) 12 Robustness in a Variable Environment
Evolution and the Mechanisms of Decision Making

Kevin A. Gluck

John M. McNamara

Henry Brighton

Peter Dayan

Yaakov Kareev

Jens Krause

Robert Kurzban

Reinhard Selten

Jeffrey R. Stevens

Bernhard Voelkl

William C. Wimsatt

The MIT Press

Robustness is a prominent concept in technical sciences and engineering and has been recognized as an important principle in evolutionary biology. This chapter proposes that “robustness” be used to characterize the extent to which a natural or artificial system can maintain its function when facing perturbation, and that this concept is relevant to Darwinian decision theory. Situations in which the action of natural selection is liable to lead to the evolution of robust behavioral strategies are highlighted along with some psychological mechanisms that might lead to robust decision-making processes. Robustness describes a property of a system varying on a continuous scale rather than existing as a dichotomous feature. Degree of robustness depends on the details of the interaction of system characteristics and environmental contingencies, as well as the specific types and extents of perturbations to which the system may be subjected. A system can be robust in one domain while remaining highly vulnerable to perturbations in others. As defined here, robustness is related to, yet distinct from, flexibility and optimality. The sorts of environmental variation, and hence perturbations, that an organism or technology is liable to face are described, as is the cost-benefit trade-off of robustness. Finally, the robustness of decision making at the level of social groups is considered.

Keywords:   Strüngmann Forum Reports, decision making, decision theory, robustness, flexibility, optimality

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