Robert Axelrod

Last updated
Robert Axelrod
Born (1943-05-27) May 27, 1943 (age 77)
Alma mater

Robert Marshall Axelrod (born May 27, 1943) is an American political scientist. He is Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at the University of Michigan where he has been since 1974. He is best known for his interdisciplinary work on the evolution of cooperation. His current research interests include complexity theory (especially agent-based modeling), international security, and cyber security. Axelrod is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. [1] Axelrod is also a Senior Fellow at ARTIS International.



Axelrod received his B.A. in mathematics from the University of Chicago in 1964. In 1969, he received his Ph.D. in political science from Yale University for a thesis entitled Conflict of interest: a theory of divergent goals with applications to politics. He taught at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1968 until 1974.

Among his honors and awards are membership in the National Academy of Sciences, a five-year MacArthur Prize Fellowship, the Newcomb Cleveland Prize of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences for an outstanding contribution to science. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1985. [2] In 1990 Axelrod was awarded the inaugural NAS Award for Behavioral Research Relevant to the Prevention of Nuclear War from the National Academy of Sciences. [3]

Recently Axelrod has consulted and lectured on promoting cooperation and harnessing complexity for the United Nations, the World Bank, the U.S. Department of Defense, and various organizations serving health care professionals, business leaders, and K–12 educators.

Axelrod was the President of the American Political Science Association (APSA) for the 2006–2007 term. He focused his term on the theme of interdisciplinarity.

In May 2006, Axelrod was awarded an honorary degree by Georgetown University. In 2013, he was awarded the Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science. In 2014, President Barack Obama presented Axelrod with a National Medal of Science. [4] On May 28, 2015, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Harvard University. [5]

Work on evolution of cooperation

Axelrod worked on the evolution of cooperation via the so-called game of iterated prisoner's dilemma, where two players make a sequence of decision to cooperate or defect, while trying to maximize their score. In 1979, Axelrod tried to program computers to play the game and found that the winner of the tournaments were often a program based on "tit-for-tat", that is a program that cooperates on the first step, then just copies whatever the opponent does subsequently. [6] This winning program was also often obtained by natural selection, a result which was widely taken to explain the emergence of cooperation in evolutionary biology and the social sciences. [6]



Journal articles

See also

Related Research Articles

An evolutionarily stable strategy (ESS) is a strategy which, if adopted by a population in a given environment, is impenetrable, meaning that it cannot be invaded by any alternative strategy that are initially rare. It is relevant in game theory, behavioural ecology, and evolutionary psychology. An ESS is an equilibrium refinement of the Nash equilibrium. It is a Nash equilibrium that is "evolutionarily" stable: once it is fixed in a population, natural selection alone is sufficient to prevent alternative (mutant) strategies from invading successfully. The theory is not intended to deal with the possibility of gross external changes to the environment that bring new selective forces to bear.

<i>The Evolution of Cooperation</i>

The Evolution of Cooperation is a 1984 book by political scientist Robert Axelrod that expanded a highly influential paper of the same name, and popularized the study upon which the original paper had been based. Since 2006, reprints of the book have included a foreword by Richard Dawkins and been marketed as a revised edition.

The prisoner's dilemma is a standard example of a game analyzed in game theory that shows why two completely rational individuals might not cooperate, even if it appears that it is in their best interests to do so. It was originally framed by Merrill Flood and Melvin Dresher while working at RAND in 1950. Albert W. Tucker formalized the game with prison sentence rewards and named it "prisoner's dilemma", presenting it as follows:

Two members of a criminal gang are arrested and imprisoned. Each prisoner is in solitary confinement with no means of communicating with the other. The prosecutors lack sufficient evidence to convict the pair on the principal charge, but they have enough to convict both on a lesser charge. Simultaneously, the prosecutors offer each prisoner a bargain. Each prisoner is given the opportunity either to betray the other by testifying that the other committed the crime, or to cooperate with the other by remaining silent. The possible outcomes are:

Tit for tat English saying meaning "equivalent retaliation"

Tit for tat is an English saying meaning "equivalent retaliation". It developed from "tip for tap", first used in 1558.

Frans de Waal

Franciscus Bernardus Maria "Frans" de Waal is a Dutch primatologist and ethologist. He is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Primate Behavior in the Department of Psychology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory, and author of numerous books including Chimpanzee Politics (1982) and Our Inner Ape (2005). His research centers on primate social behavior, including conflict resolution, cooperation, inequity aversion, and food-sharing. He is a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.


Cooperation is the process of groups of organisms working or acting together for common, mutual, or some underlying benefit, as opposed to working in competition for selfish benefit. Many animal and plant species cooperate both with other members of their own species and with members of other species.

Computational sociology branch of the discipline of sociology

Computational sociology is a branch of sociology that uses computationally intensive methods to analyze and model social phenomena. Using computer simulations, artificial intelligence, complex statistical methods, and analytic approaches like social network analysis, computational sociology develops and tests theories of complex social processes through bottom-up modeling of social interactions.

Robert Jervis

Robert Jervis is the Adlai E. Stevenson Professor of International Politics in the Department of Political Science at Columbia University, and is a member of the Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies in the School of International and Public Affairs. He has been a member of the faculty since 1980. Jervis was the recipient of the 1990 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. Jervis is co-editor of the Cornell Studies in Security Affairs, a series published by Cornell University Press, and the member of numerous editorial review boards for scholarly journals. According to the Open Syllabus Project, Jervis is the fourth most frequently cited author on college syllabi for political science courses.

Robert Keohane

Robert Owen Keohane is an American academic working within the fields of International Relations and International Political Economy. Following the publication of his influential book After Hegemony (1984), he has become widely associated with the theory of neoliberal institutionalism, as well as transnational relations and world politics in international relations in the 1970s.

T. V. Paul

Thazha Varkey Paul is a James McGill professor of International Relations in the department of Political Science at McGill University. Paul specializes in International Relations, especially international security, regional security and South Asia. He served as the President of the International Studies Association (ISA) during 2016–2017, and served as the founding director of the McGill University – Université de Montreal Centre for International Peace and Security Studies (CIPSS).

Michael Cohen was the William D. Hamilton Collegiate Professor of Complex Systems, Information and Public Policy at the University of Michigan.

Scott Atran is an American-French cultural anthropologist who is Emeritus Director of Research in Anthropology at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique in Paris, Research Professor at the University of Michigan, and cofounder of ARTIS International and of the Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict at Oxford University. He has studied and written about terrorism, violence and religion, and has done fieldwork with terrorists and Islamic fundamentalists, as well as political leaders.

Live and let live is the spontaneous rise of non-aggressive co-operative behaviour that developed during the First World War, particularly during prolonged periods of trench warfare on the Western Front. Perhaps one of the most famous examples of this is the Christmas Truce of 1914.

<i>The Complexity of Cooperation</i> book by Robert Axelrod

The Complexity of Cooperation, by Robert Axelrod, 0691015678 is the sequel to The Evolution of Cooperation. It is a compendium of seven articles that previously appeared in journals on a variety of subjects. The book extends Axelrod's method of applying the results of game theory, in particular that derived from analysis of the Prisoner's Dilemma (IPD) problem, to real world situations.

Harvey Whitehouse is chair of social anthropology and professorial fellow of Magdalen College at the University of Oxford.

Sir Adam Roberts is Emeritus Professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford, a senior research fellow in Oxford University's Department of Politics and International Relations, and an emeritus fellow of Balliol College, Oxford.

Mark van Vugt is a Dutch evolutionary psychologist who holds a professorship in evolutionary psychology and work and organizational psychology at the VU University Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Van Vugt has affiliate positions at the University of Oxford, Institute for Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology (ICEA).

Dominic D. P. Johnson is an Alistair Buchan Professor of International Relations at St Antony's College, Oxford.

The William and Katherine Estes Award, previously known as the NAS Award for Behavioral Research Relevant to the Prevention of Nuclear War is awarded by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences "to recognize basic research in any field of cognitive or behavioral science that has employed rigorous formal or empirical methods, optimally a combination of these, to advance our understanding of problems or issues relating to the risk of nuclear war". It was first awarded in 1990.

ARTIS International is a scientific research organization which focuses on behavioral dynamics affecting conflict. Its work is field orientated, and the fellows come from a wide variety of disciplines.


  1. "Council on Foreign Relations". Council on Foreign Relations.
  2. "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter A" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 28 April 2011.
  3. "NAS Award for Behavior Research Relevant to the Prevention of Nuclear War". National Academy of Sciences. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
  4. "Remarks by the President at National Medals of Science and National Medals of Technology and Innovation Award Ceremony". White House. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  5. "Ten to receive honorary degrees". May 28, 2015.
  6. 1 2 A New Kind of Science
  7. Atran, Scott; Axelrod, Robert; Davis, Richard (2007-08-24). "Sacred Barriers to Conflict Resolution". Science. 317 (5841): 1039–1040. CiteSeerX . doi:10.1126/science.1144241. ISSN   0036-8075. PMID   17717171.