In his book "The Selfish Gene", Richard Dawkins says that retaliator emerges as an evolutionary stable strategy. But I think dove is also a kind of retaliator and so if dove increases, the hawks and others can exploit them.

Is retaliator an ESS? If not, which strategy is ESS?


  • hawk : They always fight hard and retreat only when injured.

  • doves : They merely threaten in a dignified way and never hurt anyone.

If a hawk fights a dove, dove runs away. If dove meets dove they go on posturing until one of them is tired and retreats. If a hawk meets hawk they fight until someone gets seriously injured or dies.

  • retaliators : A retaliator plays dove at the beginning of every fight. If opponent attacks, he attacks , if opponent behave like a dove he behaves like a dove. When 2 retaliators meet they behave like doves.

  • bully : A bully behave like a hawk until someone hits back. Then, he runs away.

  • prober retaliator : He is like a retaliator but he tries a brief escalation of the contest. He is hawk like if opponent doesn't strike back. If opponent strikes back he behave like a dove. If he is attacked he retaliates.

The pay offs: 50 for winning, 0 for losing, -100 for being seriously injured. and -10 for wasting time in a long contest.

Source: The Selfish Gene


closed as too broad by fileunderwater, Chris, Nandor Poka, cagliari2005, WYSIWYG Apr 16 '15 at 11:25

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  • $\begingroup$ Why would you label the dove a kind of retaliator? $\endgroup$ – fileunderwater Oct 25 '13 at 8:05
  • $\begingroup$ Could you please describe the kind of payoff matrix in play and the definition of the different strategies (dove, hawk, retaliator)? $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Oct 25 '13 at 8:20
  • $\begingroup$ @fileunderwater As retaliators play like doves at the beginning of every fight and 2 doves do exactly the same thing as 2 retaliators will do when they meet. $\endgroup$ – biogirl Oct 25 '13 at 8:22
  • $\begingroup$ @remi.b Sure. Will edit the question---- $\endgroup$ – biogirl Oct 25 '13 at 8:23
  • $\begingroup$ @biogirl But that is the whole point of the retaliator - that they behave as dove initially, but then retaliates. Doves don't retaliate (they always back down if challanged) so I dont see the point of labelling them as "...a kind of retaliator". $\endgroup$ – fileunderwater Oct 25 '13 at 9:04

I think Dawkins answers this in the book as well.

The point was that most strategies are not stable because the "random" introduction/mutation/evolution of some alternate strategies will disrupt a population of the first strategy.

The example was a group of doves being invaded by a single hawk (the conspiracy of doves). Because the hawk does relatively better (by winning every conflict against a dove), than even after generations of entirely doves, the random addition of a hawk (say by mutation) will take hold because the hawk always wins against a dove. Whatever feature/gene that created a hawk in the pool of doves will be passed to some offspring.

If I remember correctly, the only stable case was prober-retaliator, since all others get invaded by someone else.

  • $\begingroup$ Yeah he has answered it in the newer editions.... $\endgroup$ – biogirl Jan 17 '15 at 6:08

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