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4 Tutorials that teach Game Theory and Conflict Resolution
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Game Theory and Conflict Resolution

Game Theory and Conflict Resolution

Author: Marlene Johnson
Description:

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand the basic ways in which game theory can be used to model conflicts

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Tutorial

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If you like to play games, whether they be video games or board games, you know that strategy is involved. That strategy is called game theory. There's a name for that in conflict resolution.

I'm Marlene, and today I'd like to talk about game theory with you, and its relationship to conflict resolution. The way that we use strategies in games, how we interact with others, how we get our needs met in games, and how that relates to conflict.

First of all, let's define game theory. Game theory is a theory which interprets human interactions as a set of strategies and actions intended to move individuals closer to attaining goals in either a collaborative or competitive framework. So a collaborative or cooperative game, of course, would be where players work together by creating binding commitments to jointly win.

We all know this is true in team store. Football, you can have a great quarterback. But if you don't have great offense and defense, you probably won't win the game. All team sports are based on this.

Then, of course, there's non-cooperative games. And of course, in these kind of games, each win for one player represents a loss for another. And there are no binding commitments in this sort of game.

I think chess might be a good example of this kind of game where you've got one person pitted against another person. And there's no binding commitments to work with anyone else in that kind of non-cooperative game.

So game theory consists of players and moves. Let's define each of these. A player would be a person participating in an interaction or process interpreted as a game. So for our purposes in conflict resolution, we're looking at this as a game.

And these players, of course, make moves. And in game theory, a move is an action taken with the intent of moving closer to a goal.

Now, these actions that we take, these strategies, these moves, can lead to payoffs. A payoff could be a gain. And a gain is a movement closer to a desired goal in a game. Or, it could be a loss, which is movement away from a desired goal in a game.

So that's what game theory consists of. We're familiar with it when we play games. And this theory is used to model conflict as a series of strategic moves. Let me give you some examples here.

I think we see it in politics, in diplomacy. Diplomatic relations. Quite often, a country might form an alliance with a nation that they might ordinarily consider an enemy, or someone that they are in conflict with, but they form an alliance because they see it as a strategic move that might allow them to gain in another area. Or perhaps, it could be a trade agreement. It could be a mutual desire, perhaps, to come together so that another country won't get nuclear arms. So you see these kinds of strategic moves among players.

You might see it in your community. Let's say someone wants to build a high rise in a residential community near a lake and you don't want this high rise built. You want to keep the buildings that go up to a certain level. So you reach out-- or the party that is opposing this reaches out to a number of players to bring them together in what we might think of in game theory is a cooperative game. Residents in the neighborhood, people who own businesses. Perhaps, people who come into the neighborhood to use the recreational facilities around the lake. Maybe some city council members. You decide to bring these players together and see if you can make some moves towards strategic gains that will allow you to accomplish your goals. So those are a couple of examples of how game theory might play out in conflict resolution.

In closing, I want to say that this model as strategic moves is a useful model, but it doesn't allow for the relational aspects of conflict. And what I mean by that is simply because of relationship a party might make a move that's not simply for gain, but has to do with relationship. So thank you for being part of this tutorial, and I look forward to seeing you next time.

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Game Theory

    A theory which interprets human interactions as a set of strategies and actions intended to move individuals closer to attaining goals, in either a collaborative or competitive framework.

  • Player

    A person participating in an interaction or process interpreted as a game.

  • Move

    In game theory, an action taken with the intent of moving closer to a goal.

  • Gain

    Movement closer to a desired goal in a game.

  • Loss

    Movement away from a desired goal in a game.