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The Game of Marriage

In class, we have talked about game theory, a study of how people make decisions in certain situations with varying strategies. We can look at game theory and how it “is designed to address situations in which the outcome of a person’s decision depends not just on how they choose among several options, but also on choices made by people they are interacting with” (textbook). For example, in lecture we discussed the Prisoner’s Dilemma and how each Prisoner wants to maximize their benefit, but their benefits depend on the decision of the other person. In many two player games, players have to consider the other’s point of view so that he can individually maximize benefits.

In the article, “Marriage and the Art of Game Theory,” Paula Szuchman talks about how a long term relationship such as a marriage is like a game, because each individual person wants to further their gains, but also has to consider his partner. Szuchman says that there are some things that marriage and game theory have in common: both require more than one person, each person wants to maximize gains but is limited by each other’s presence, and they can work together or alone depending on the situation. For example, in marriages there are responsibilities that are typically divided among a couple, such as taxes, shopping, cleaning, or taking care of children. These tasks can interfere with one’s personal goals, but compromises have to be made to maximize benefits for not only each person, but also the couple as a whole. Szuchman states that when interviewing married couples, people say that the hardest parts of marriage are “compromise, negotiation, and different points of view.”

Compromise and negotiation are considerations that can make game theory more complicated than a situation where the players only care about their own personal benefits. In the textbook there is an example of students in a presentation versus exam scenario. Each person has to decide to study for the exam or prepare for the presentation in order to maximize their final grade. However, if the person cared about the grade that his partner received, then the benefits would be different and the players would have to adjust their strategies accordingly. In a marriage, each person cares about the other, and therefore cooperation is necessary, which is a consideration in many games and is important in game theory.


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