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Archive for February 16th, 2011

Sports theory

To be honest I really wanted to write a post about game theory in dating.  Unfortunately my procrastination bit me in the butt because some one beat me too it.  So instead I will talk about something that I know much more about.  Like basketball.  Right now the talk around my apartment and with my friends is if Daron Williams will stay with the Utah Jazz.  I think principles of game theory might apply to this situation.  It is no secret that D-Will wants a championship.  He has said it many times.  The only issue is that he plays for Utah.  I am a die hard Jazz fan but a part of me just thinks it is never in the cards for us.  I apologize to the dreamers but it is the truth.  The other thing D-Will loves almost as much as winning is being a leader.  He has said this as well.  D-Will is playing the game (and I don’t mean basketball).  Does he stay with Utah where he will be a very good player and seen as the heart and soul of the Jazz, much like Stockton and Malone? Or does he go some where, such as Miami, Boston, or the Lakers?  There is a chance of getting a championship in those clubs.  His odds increase dramatically but he will certainly not be seen as a leader or a key player.  Those teams already have their leaders fully established.  Furthermore a championship is never guaranteed.  Just ask the Miami Heat.  If he were to stay in Utah it is fairly certain that they won’t get a championship but he will be a leader.  Does he settle for that?  Is it worth the risk to switch teams and loose his prestige and die hard fans?  There is a potential ring on the line?  Its a game that he must play.  If he plays this game half as well as he dishes out assist then I think either way he will come out on top.

Game Theory in Relationships.

Maybe I have relationships on the brain. It must be because as I read about game theory it reminded me of dating. Particularly a conversation I had with a friend of mine about people ‘settling’. If you’re unfamiliar with the term ‘settling’ it when someone decides to settle for someone who is less then what they feel they might be able to get in order to avoid the risk of not ending up with anyone. As I was having this conversation I realized that this is a classic case of a prisoners dilemma. You can have two individuals who might be able to achieve better then each other if they held out longer, but often they’ll deem the other person good enough. The four options look like this:

Women Settles Women Doesn’t Settle
Man Settles They end up together
Both are happy
Women is Ecstatic,
Ends up with someone better

Man Doesn’t Settle Mans Ecstatic, Ends up
with someone better
Both are Single,
Might end up with No one.

The amazing part of this realization for me was the fact that we constantly play this game everyday. Rarely do you see a guy going for someone totally out of his league. It happens, but it’s not common because we understand the probabilities. We are faced with the choice of wither or not to date the person that isn’t as appealing as others, but one with which you have a higher chance of a successful relationship, or to take the chance that someone might settle for you. When we do so we calculate the risk that is involved, in this case ending up alone.

The funny thing is when we look at it in relation to a tit for tat strategy. A women’s risk in seeking out a better partner is marginalized if the man she’s currently with is willing to settle for her, because she can always go back to him as long as he continues to settle for her. However if he follows the ‘tit for tat’ strategy and when she goes elsewhere looking for a greater utility he also looks elsewhere and no longer decides to settle for her it increases the risk that she takes by not settling. If she knows this then the incentive she has to settle increases.

The thing that amazes me is the fact that we make these decisions most of the time subconsciously and nearly instantly. Everyday we are placed in these ‘game theory’ situations and we take precautions to ensure our risk is limited and our marginal utility is maximized.


Students please check the announcement in blackboard for information concerning the mid-term. The format has changed so please familiarize yourselves with the new format before completing your exam.