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Braess Paradox to Explain Social Dilemmas

For this blog post, I will be writing about the academic article Using the Braess Paradox to Teach Tacit Negotiation by Ugu Merlone and Angelo Romano which was written in 2016. The article draws a parallel between the Braess Paradox in Game Theory and how people act in non-verbal social settings (aka tacit negotiations). We can see here that the Braess Paradox is applied to real life, where it effects moral and ethical decisions of everyday choices. This article also discusses that the “tragedy of the commons” can be compared to a “prisoner’s dilemma” but with more people, where the players come out with worse options. This can be thought of in relation to climate change. If someone else is not going to modify their way of life to help climate change, then why should I? The player is making the choice between their personal best interests and the general best interest. The author cites lack of communication and lack of concrete contracts as other reasons why social dilemmas exist. They use an example of United and American Airlines preparing to bid over a third failing company as an analogy to the Braess Paradox: both companies should not bid (best outcome for both), but if they both bid they will lose a lot of time (bad collective outcome, like in a social dilemma).


This article relates to Networks because it discusses the Braess paradox, game theory, and decision-making in general. As quoted from the article, “The problem with social dilemmas is that if all the actors behave in a selfish manner, then collectivity will face a disaster” (Merlone 782). This applies directly to our lessons in class about Traffic congestion and Braess’s paradox. If everyone in the network decides to be selfish and take the shortest route highway, then they will all suffer the consequences of an actually increased travel length. This article also discusses the complexity of adding players to the prisoner’s dilemma, thus making it an N-player game based on collective decisions and reduced individual control. This builds upon what we’ve discussed in class thus far.


Article found here:




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