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Game Theory and Human Nature


According to a recent study on human interactions through game theory, 90% of the entire human population can be classified into four basic personality types: optimistic, pessimistic, trusting and envious. By placing volunteers in random combinations to play several rounds of classic game theory games, researchers gauged how the volunteers acted. They played Prisoner’s Dilemma, Stag Hunt, Harmony and Snowdrift, and in each game, the players had to choose between cooperating and betraying their partner for different benefits and risks to themselves. Snowdrift had the harshest penalties for betrayal while Harmony had the least. In the study, researchers found that players did not play rationally, but instead, they played according to their own self-interests rather than any game incentives. The results of these games were analyzed and then the players were grouped into four groups in accordance with their cooperation or betrayals.


Game theory is a mathematical modeling system that can test how humans interact with each other. However, as this experiment states, the results can sometimes go against these theories. Humans don’t always act in their best rational interest, and the personal beliefs and other  effects that change how they act should be taken into account in redesigning social and economic policies. Although game theory is great for theoretical bases, and is usually accurate, there are some cases when human nature can change these models and cause totally different results. As the author states, we are not only the sum of our interactions with others, but also who we present ourselves to be.


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October 2016