What are you looking for?

Seminar - Biological Markets & Social Dilemmas

How do vervet monkeys cooperate, trade and solve complicated social dillemas? In a seminar on 5 June, behavioural ecologist Ronald Noë will show us that not only humans are able to solve collective action problems.


About the Seminar

Biological markets and social dilemmas are two different forms of cooperation that have one thing in common: the interaction of multiple individuals. Models of both forms of cooperation make use of game theory, a branch of mathematics popular in economics and biology. In this talk I will avoid diving into the depths of game theoretical models, however.

On biological markets (BMs) pairs of ‘traders’ cooperate in short-term or long-term interactions. Almost any kind of organism, from bacteria to monkeys, can be a trader on a biological market. Biological Market Theory broke with a long tradition of using ‘partner control’ models in evolutionary biology by stressing the importance of the dynamics of pair formation and the effects of supply and demand and outbidding competition on exchange ratios of goods and services. After introducing the concept of Biological Markets with a few examples, I will describe an experimental test of BM-theory with free-ranging vervet monkeys.

I will then introduce Social Dilemmas (SDs), which include collective action problems, tragedies-of-the-commons and coordination problems, all of which are characterised by conflicts between private and public interests. SDs are notoriously unstable, but the fact that humans can (sometimes) solve them, is perhaps one of most typical manifestations of ‘being human’. Most human solutions require language, e.g. for concluding binding contacts or controlling peers via their reputation. That doesn’t mean, however, that humans are the only ones capable of solving SDs. I’ll show how our vervet monkeys solved a complicated coordination problem spontaneously.

The lecture is followed by an open discussion.

About the Speaker

Ronald Noë is Professor of Behavioural Ecology at Université de Strasbourg and NIAS-Lorentz Fellow 2011/12.


About NIAS Seminars

NIAS Seminars are organised by the Rector of the Institute. They are meant to appeal to interested parties from a wide range of backgrounds and are aimed to encourage closer contact within the Dutch academic world.

NIAS Seminars take place in the Lecture Room (NIAS, Meijboomlaan 1, Wassenaar, telephone 070-512 27 00). This Seminar starts at 11.00 hours and ends at 12.30. Everyone is welcome to attend the seminar and join the discussion. However, since changes in the programme may occur, please let us know if you wish to attend. For further information, contact Communication