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Game Theory, Cooperation, and Spite

Source: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/game-theory-for-parents1/

This article explores Game Theory in a different light than what we have been learning in class, it combines it with human behavior, specifically in child development. Raeburn and Zollman recount that the basisĀ of children’s decisions is mainly fair play. Although children may not cooperate every time, if they know they have to keep engaging with their peer, they can learn from some basic game theory on how to keep these interactions friendly, not spiteful.

First off, babies are more likely to share with parents, and siblings than with friends, and more with friends than friends of friends or acquaintances. This ties in to the basic network structure we discussed about strong and weak bonds. Mature cooperative networks emerge early in childhood, governed by willingness to share, fair play, and generosity. This mimics the idea of trust that we talked about in class as being powerful in forming connections between individuals, especially in triadic closure. In order to maintain this positive network structure, game theory can be used to evaluate cooperation.

The article considers two siblings in a prisoners dilemma type situation. If both siblings need to clean up their respective toys, it is in their best interest to cooperate and not tell on each other for not doing it. If one of the siblings tattles, then the other one might tattle, or they might stay silent and tattle next time. If neither of them tattle, then they expect the same consideration to be applied next time they need to clean something. This tit-for-tat strategy is apparently very effective in getting children to cooperate. Something this article talks about that we didn’t cover as much in class is the power of spite. Since child cooperation is an ongoing act, spite can play a powerful role. Typically when we talk about games in class, it is only in one time scenarios, but this article talks about how spite plays a powerful role in ongoing ones. It is human nature to bring down an opponent even if that means forgoing your own best possible outcome. People are willing to sacrifice their success in order to bring down others, and I think that is an interesting consideration in game theory when the situation is ongoing. In a situation like prisoners dilemma, there is a strong nash equilibrium, and it seems obvious that both individuals should cooperate with each other for the biggest pay off. However, once you factor spite into the equation, this becomes more complicated because you need to account for the fact that one player may sacrifice what is in their best interest, just to see the other player suffer more as well.

 

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