The Stability of Strategic Plasticity

Recent research into the evolution of higher cognition has piqued an interest in the effect of natural selection on the ability of creatures to respond to their environment (behavioral plasticity). It is believed that environmental variation is required for plasticity to evolve in cases where the ability to be plastic is costly. We investigate one form of environmental variation: frequency dependent selection. Using tools in game theory, we investigate a few models of plasticity and outline the cases where selection would be expected to maintain it. Ultimately we conclude that frequency dependent selection is likely insuffcient to maintain plasticity given reasonable assumptions about its costs. This result is very similar to one aspect of the well-discussed Baldwin effect, where plasticity is first selected for and then later selected against. We show how in these models one would expect plasticity to grow in the population and then be later reduced. Ultimately we conclude that if one is to account for the evolution of behavioral plasticity in this way, one must appeal to a very particular sort of external environmental variation
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