POLI 102G: Politics, Puzzles, and Games
Monday, Wednesday, Friday 12:00pm – 12:50pm
University Center 413, Room 2
Prof: James Fowler, SSB 383
Office Hours: Monday 1pm – 3pm or by appointment
Politics is about strategic interaction. When political actors make choices about voting for a candidate, running for office, passing a law, or going to war, they usually take into account the likely responses and actions of others. This course introduces formal theory as a technique for analyzing strategic interactions. The principles of decision theory and game theory are introduced and illustrated with examples drawn from politics. You will play several simple games to learn about how people actually react under similar situations. The logic of strategic interaction and techniques of game theory developed in this class are useful for thinking about politics but they also have wide applications to other fields and your own everyday life.
Two texts may help you keep up with some of the game theory and formal theory references:
Dixit, Avinash and Susan Skeath. 2004. Games of Strategy. New York: Norton, second edition
Shepsle, Kenneth and Mark S. Bonchek. 1997. Analyzing Politics. New York: Norton.
The books should be available at the University book store, but they can be acquired online much more cheaply. (Try http://addall.com for a comparison of multiple new and used book stores).
Your evaluation will depend on your understanding of basic formal theory, game experiments, and your ability to apply them to problems in political science. Your grade for this course will depend on four components:
1. Attendance and Participation
With the exception of our first course meeting, you should plan to do all of the readings prior to the class for which they are assigned. While this component is not graded, experience shows that it is highly correlated with exam performance. Some lecture topics will be in addition to material in the readings.
2. Weekly Reactions to Reading (40%)
You will be required to email a three-sentence summary of each reading assigned for the coming week. Please put POLI 102G in the subject heading. Plain text, please, no pdf or word-processed versions. It is due each Friday at 5:00pm. You also have the opportunity to ask me to address something in class that youŐd like to have clarified (but this is not required). This is graded pass-fail – I am just checking to make sure you are keeping up with the reading.
3. Midterm Exam (10%)
I will hand out a cumulative take-home midterm exam on November 7. You should bring your typed answers to my mailbox in the political science department due at 3:00pm on November 8.
4. Final Exam (50%)
I will hand out a cumulative take-home final exam on December 5. You should bring your typed answers to my mailbox in the political science department due at 3:00pm on December 6.
I do not grant permission to add this course (PTAs).
I will only give incompletes for compelling, unanticipated, and nonacademic reasons. Late assignments will be marked down the equivalent of a full letter grade for each 24 hour period in which they are late. I will only make an exception to this policy if 1) you contact me in writing a week in advance to discuss a conflict, or 2) you provide documentation of a severe illness or family emergency that prevented you from completing the assignment on time.
Tentative Schedule of Topics
Rationality, equilibrium, backwards induction, and the centipede game
Expected utility theory and the paradox of turnout
Altruism, the dictator game, and voting
Marginal utility and the St. Petersburg paradox
Discount factors and the choice game
Risk, prospect theory, and the Allais and Ellsburg paradoxes
Coordination, the flat tire game, and the battle of the sexes game
Deterrence, the chicken game, and the assurance game
The public goods game, the random income game, and the collective action problem
Elinor Ostrom. A Behavioral Approach to the Rational Choice Theory of Collective Action: Presidential Address, American Political Science Association, 1997. American Political Science Review 92:1. (Mar., 1998), pp. 1-22.
Cooperation, the prisoner's dilemma, and the trust game
Bargaining, the ultimatum game, and wars of attrition
Joseph Henrich; Robert Boyd; Samuel Bowles; Colin Camerer; Ernst Fehr; Herbert Gintis; Richard McElreath. In Search of Homo Economicus: Behavioral Experiments in 15 Small-Scale Societies. American Economic Review, Vol. 91, No. 2, Papers and Proceedings of the Hundred Thirteenth Annual Meeting of the American Economic Association. (May, 2001), pp. 73-78.
Median voters, cycling, chaos, and party competition games
NO CLASSES – THANKSGIVING!
Learning, BayesŐ rule, and the beauty contest game
How games have shaped our genes
David Cesarini, Christopher T. Dawes, James H. Fowler, The Genetic Basis of Trust and Cooperation (will be sent by email)
Christopher T. Dawes and James H. Fowler Two Genes and Voter Turnout (will be sent by email)