February 23, 2008

Game Theory and Relationships (July 14 2005)

Game theory is a branch of mathematics popularised in recent years by 'A Beautiful Mind' the bestselling biography of mathematican John Nash and the movie of the same name starring Russell Crow.

Game Theory is a field that is difficult to summarise. I guess you could say it is a study of the interaction between multiple self interested rational agents.One of the most famous problems of of game theory is a situation known as the prisoners Dilemma.

Here is a Summary taken from the University of Stanford Website.

"Suppose that the police have arrested two people whom they know have committed an armed robbery together. Unfortunately, they lack enough admissible evidence to get a jury to convict. They do, however, have enough evidence to send each prisoner away for two years for theft of the getaway car.

The chief inspector now makes the following offer to each prisoner: If you will confess to the robbery, implicating your partner, and she does not also confess, then you'll go free and she'll get ten years. If you both confess, you'll each get 5 years. If neither of you confess, then you'll each get two years for the auto theft."

In any close relationship, whether that of parent to child, boyfriend to girlfriend or husband and wife, there exists the opportunity to exercise emotional leverage to gain some personal advantage. This is analogous to confessing in the above situation.

The penalties of having your trust betrayed are comparable to the person who must serve ten years in the above scenario. I think MOST longterm relationships tend to produce situations and powerdynamics similioar to the prisoners dilemma in which the guiding considerations of action becomes strategy rather than fairness.

A successful mutually beneficial relationship is ultimately based on both parties leaving the potential advantages on the table... (Neither "Confesses" in the above scenario)

I have GREAT respect for people who have the confidence and trust in me to apologise for something they have done. Apologising for past actions and admission of error more than anything else leaves you open to the exercise of emotional leverage by another party.I have been in situations in the past in friendships and relationships where I have felt myself to be in the wrong on a particular issue BUT also didnt have the trust or confidence in the other party to apologise for my actions.

I was not willing to give up leverage.If one person in a relationship wants to make strategic moves, the other person has three choices. A) Conceed the game B) Try to win the game C) Walk away from the game/relationship.Gameplaying in MANY walks of life interests and fascinates me.. In relationships it bores and fruistrates me and I wish I knew of a way out of such dilemmas

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