Robert Axelrod

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Robert Axelrod

Mary Ann and Charles R. Walgreen, Jr. Professor
for the Study of Human Understanding

Office Location(s): 4116 Weill Hall
Personal Website
Ford School Website
View Curriculum Vitae

  • Affiliation(s)
    • Ford School of Public Policy
  • Fields of Study
    • Formal Modeling
    • Research Methods
    • Public Policy and Administration
    • World Politics/International Relations
  • About

    Professor Axelrod's principal interests include math models (especially computer simulation), international security affairs, and complexity theory.  He is best known for his extensive work on issues of cooperation and complexity.  His landmark book, The Evolution of Cooperation, explores how cooperation can emerge in a world of self-seeking egoists (superpowers, businesses, or individuals, etc.) despite the absence of a central authority and hence the enforcement of rules of cooperation.  The sequel to this book, The Complexity of Cooperation (1997) incorporates complexity theory into the Prisoner’s Dilemma framework. Through agent-based modeling, the book offers an alternative approach to the rational-choice paradigm such as game theory. The notion of adaptive behavior replaces the assumption of rational choice to assess the effects of simultaneous actions and interactions of autonomous agents on the system as a whole.  In addition to working on issues of cooperation, Professor Axelrod has written on decision-making, schema theory, and cognition and choice.   

  • Education
    • Yale University, Ph.D. with distinction (Political Science)
    • Yale University, M.A. (Political Science)
    • University of Chicago, B.A. with honors (Mathematics)
  • Courses Taught
    • International Security Affairs
    • Framing Theory in the Social Sciences
    • Complexity Theory in the Social Sciences
    • Psychology and Politics of Sense Making