Evolutionarily Stable (Mis)specifications: Theory and Applications
We introduce an evolutionary framework to evaluate competing (mis)specifications in strategic situations, focusing on which misspecifications can persist over correct specifications. Agents with heterogeneous specifications coexist in a society and repeatedly play a stage game against random opponents, drawing Bayesian inferences about the environment based on personal experience. One specification is evolutionarily stable against another if, when-ever sufficiently prevalent, its adherents obtain higher average payoffs than their counterparts. Agents’ equilibrium beliefs are constrained but not wholly determined by specifications. Endogenous belief formation through the learning channel generates novel stability phenomena compared to frameworks where single beliefs are the heritable units of cultural transmission. In linear-quadratic-normal games where players receive correlated signals but possibly misperceive the information structure, the correct specification is evolutionarily unstable against a correlational error whose direction depends on social interaction structure. We also endogenize coarse thinking in games and show how its prevalence varies with game parameters.