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First Real Life Example of the Hawk-Dove Game

In this article, the author describes the first real life example of the hawk-dove game and explains how it relates to the sustainability of an ecosystem.  Although, the hawk-dove game theory has been very popular, it has been difficult to test due to the fact that it is challenging to identify distinct “hawks” and “doves” (that is 2 animals coexisting where one displays aggressive traits and the other passive traits).  Australian Gouldian finches made the experiment possible because the red-headed finch is aggressive and likely to win a fight for a nesting place and the black-headed finch is much more passive.  The hawk-dove game predicted that the optimal ratio of red to black finches should be 30:70, which is exactly what exists in the field.  This is the proper balance because red finches spend their time winning the best nesting places, but do not spend much time raising their children, whereas the black finches simply avoid conflict and spend their time raising their young.  So, if there get to be too many red finches then the population suffers.

If we take these findings and apply them to the real world, say to a corporate environment, we can see that it holds true.  If there are too many “hawks” in a business environment then there will be too much time wasted on conflict and not enough work will get done.  There needs to be the right balance of “hawks” and “doves” in an organization to have it functioning optimally.  This article also shows that conflict is minimized at the right balance.  Although the “hawks” are willing to fight, the “doves” back down and so there is no fighting.  To me humans seem more unnatural (than say a bird) and act in more unpredictable ways than other animals, which makes me believe that humans do not always organize themselves in the most optimal way.  If we look at the political system of the United States, it would appear that the government is not in balance.  With all the conflict it seems that there are too many “hawks”, however, there are a few questions that arise.

Is the political profession dominated by “hawks” (ie “hawks” are more likely to win office)?  Does the two party system complicate the labeling of politicians as “hawks” and “doves”?  I’d be interested in seeing the results of such a study.


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September 2014