I. COURSE GOALS: Probably the most dramatic development in descriptive
and normative social theory in this century has been the development of a
formal theory of strategic rationality (game theory) and its application
to descriptive and normative social theory. This course focuses on the
application of non-cooperative game theory to the social sciences to show
both the fruitfulness and the limitations of the theory. The course provides
an introduction to the important concepts of non-cooperative game theory
and then explores some of the most important developments in the application
of game theory to social explanation, with particular attention to explaining
collective action. The course critically evaluates two different roles for
game theory in the social sciences: (1) as a framework for methodological
individualism; (2) as a framework for understanding the evolution of social
attitudes and social institutions, and, ultimately, of a society's conception
of rationality itself. In this course, you will master the important concepts
of game theory, without the usual attendant mathematical complexity. No
familiarity with game theory is presupposed, and no mathematics beyond elementary
algebra is required.
II. COURSE REQUIREMENTS:
1. CLASS PREPARATION AND ATTENDANCE. The class meets MWF at 12:30 p.m., EXCEPT
ON MON., JAN. 16 (M.L. KING, JR. HOLIDAY) AND MON., FEB. 20 (PRESIDENTS'
DAY HOLIDAY). Everyone is expected to do the assigned readings in advance
and to attend and to participate in the discussion. The reading assignments
appear at the end of this syllabus.
WARNING: SKIPPING CLASSES IS HAZARDOUS TO YOUR GRADE.
There will be questions on the exams that cannot be answered adequately
from the readings alone.
2. WRITTEN ANSWERS TO IN-CLASS QUESTIONS. At the end of each class except
Friday, Feb. 6 (the day of the Midterm Exam), you will be asked to turn in
a brief written answer to a question based on the day's reading assignment
and discussion. Each of these answers is worth 5 points, for a total of 140
points during the quarter (including 5 points for the email assignment described
below). If you ever receive less than 3 out of 5 points on an end-of-class
question, you may submit a revised answer to raise your grade to 3 points.
Revised answers may be turned in at any time before the Final Exam. Students
who are absent cannot make up these assignments, unless the absence is excused.
3. HOMEWORK AND FINAL PROJECT. There will be regular homework assignments
(approximately once per week during the first half of the course, intermittently
thereafter), and a larger Final Project due at the last class meeting, Mar.
13. The homework assignments will be worth 100 points and the Final Project
will be worth 100 points. NOTE THAT TO OBTAIN CREDIT FOR A HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT,
YOU MUST ATTEND CLASS ON THE DAY IT IS DUE, PREPARED TO DISCUSS IT, AND THEN
TURN IT IN AT THE END OF CLASS, UNLESS THE ABSENCE IS EXCUSED. LATE ASSIGNMENTS
CAN EARN UP TO 50% CREDIT, SO YOU SHOULD TURN IN ALL ASSIGNMENTS, EVEN IF
THEY ARE LATE. IF YOU EARN LESS THAN 50% ON ANY ASSIGNMENT, YOU MAY REDO
IT AND TURN IT IN FOR 50% CREDIT.
NOTE: Because the class attracts students with a variety of backgrounds,
some students will have more difficulty with the homework assignments than
others. I hope to be able to schedule an optional weekly review session that
will be open to all, but strongly recommended for those who have problems
with the homework or who have other questions about the discussion in
4. EXAMS. (a) Midterm Exam. There will be a Midterm Exam (worth 150 points) in class on Friday., Feb. 6. A list of potential exam questions will be distributed in class on the preceding Friday, Jan. 30.
(b) Final Exam. There will be a Final Exam (worth 150 points) on Thurs., Mar. 19 at 8:30 a.m. in Savery 245. A list of potential exam questions will be distributed in class on Wed., Mar. 11.
NOTE: To assist your preparation, before each exam a comprehensive
list of potential exam questions will be handed out in class. The actual
exam questions will be selected from the list. Please bring a pen and blank
blue books with no pages missing to the exams. Final Exams will be available
for pick-up from me during the first week of Spring Quarter. If you would
like your Final Exam mailed to you, please provide me a stamped, self-addressed
envelope to be used for mailing.
5. TERM PAPER OPTION. With my permission a term paper (10-15 pages) may be
substituted for the Final Exam. All term papers must be discussed with me
and approved by me on or before March 1. Term papers are due at the Philosophy
Department Office, Savery 345, by 4:30 p.m. on Wed., Mar. 18. Anyone who
does not turn in a term paper by that time should take the Final Exam on
Thurs., Mar. 19, unless an extension of time has been obtained.
6. EMAIL ACCOUNTS. All students are required to have electronic mail accounts.
Your first assignment (worth 5 points) is to send me an email message (email
address: wtalbott) with your name, student ID number, email address, and
a brief statement of your background in philosophy. If you do not have an
email account, the people in the Computing Resource Center, Room 102 of Suzallo
Library can show you how to set one up and can show you how to use it. I
will use email to broadcast general course announcements, so you should check
your email at least weekly.
III. EXTENSIONS OF TIME. Extensions of time should be requested in
advance of the deadline. Unexcused, late work will be penalized. I DO
NOT INTEND TO GRANT ANY INCOMPLETES, EXCEPT IN CASES OF GENUINE EMERGENCIES.
IV. GRADES. Grades will be based on total points (out of a total possible
of 640 points) as follows: Answers to In-Class Questions and Email Assignment
(140 points); Homework assignments (100 points); Final Project (100 points);
Midterm Exam (150 points); and Final Exam (150 points). Your contribution
to discussion in class can improve your grade, but cannot lower it. Unexcused
absences can lower your grade.
V. COURSE EVALUATION. Fri., Mar. 11 in class. The course evaluation
is your opportunity to evaluate my performance and to provide suggestions
for improving the course.
VI. REQUIRED READINGS.
A. REQUIRED TEXTS:
1. Available for purchase at the University Book Store: Robert Axelrod, The Evolution of Cooperation (EC); Robert H. Frank, Passions Within Reason (PWR); Robin M. Hogarth and Melvin W. Reder, eds., Rational Choice (RC).
2. Class Reader (photocopied materials). [Referred to as "Reader" below.] The Reader is available for purchase at the Copy Center in the Communications Building, Room B-042.
3. Supplemental Reader (Colman). I had intended that the following book would
be a required text for the course: Andrew M. Colman, Game Theory and its
Applications (GTA). The Colman text is out of print. The required
parts of it have been assembled into a Supplemental Course Reader that is
available for purchase at the Copy Center in the Communications Building,
B. READING ASSIGNMENTS [Note that the order in which readings appear
in the reader is not the order in which we read them.]
WEEK #1 (Jan. 5-9):
Introduction and Overview
1. James Buchanan, The Limits of Liberty, Chapter 2, pp. 17-34 [READER pp. 5-14].
Parametric Rationality: Decisions Under Certainty, Risk, and Uncertainty
2. Colman, GTA, Chapters 1-2, pp. 3-32.
WEEK #2 (Jan. 12-16):
Strategic Rationality (Non-Cooperative Game Theory)
Strictly Competitive Games
1. Colman, GTA, Chaps. 4-5, pp. 53-99.
Purely Cooperative Games: Standard Convention Game, Pareto Convention Game
1. Colman, GTA, Chap. 3 (partial), pp. 33-40.
Mixed Motive Games
1. Colman, GTA, Chap. 6 (partial), pp. 100-121, and Chapter 7, pp.
134-160. Note that on p. 120, l. 14 from the bottom, the text should read:
"A unilateral cooperator may therefore be described as a 'martyr'."
WEEK #3 (Jan. 19-23) [NO CLASS ON MON., JAN. 19]
Two-Person PD Supergames
1. Axelrod, EC, Chapter 1-4, pp. 3-87, and Chapters 8-9, pp. 145-191.
2. Michael Taylor, The Possibility of Cooperation, Chapter 3, pp.
60-81 [READER pp. 15-25].
WEEK #4 (Jan. 26-30) [MIDTERM REVIEW QUESTIONS DISTRIBUTED IN CLASS ON FRI., JAN. 30]
N-Person Collective Action Problems, including N-Person PD Supergames
1. Colman, GTA, Chap. 9, pp. 186-226. Ignore the analysis of the Auction game on the bottom of p. 194 and the top of p. 195.
2. Russell Hardin, Collective Action, Chapter 4 (partial), pp. 50-57 [READER pp. 26-29].
3. Thomas C. Schelling, "Hockey Helmets, Daylight Saving, and Other Binary
Choices", in Micromotives and Macrobehavior, pp. 213-234 [READER pp.
WEEK #5 (Feb. 2-6): [MIDTERM IN CLASS ON FRI. FEB. 6]
The Emergence of Norms
1. Richard O. Zerbe, Jr. and C. Leigh Anderson, "Culture and Fairness in the Development of Institutions in the California Gold Fields" (manuscript) [READER pp. 108-133].
2. Elster, Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences, Chapter XII, pp. 113-123 [READER pp. 75-80].
3. Christina Bicchieri, "Norms of Cooperation", in Ethics, Vol. 100,
No. 4 (July 1990), pp. 838-861 [READER pp. 45-56].
WEEK #6 (Feb. 9-13)
1. Frank, PWR, Chapters 1-8, pp. 1-162.
WEEK #7 (Feb. 16-20) [NO CLASS ON MON., FEB. 16]
Attitudes of Approval and Disapproval
1. Philip Pettit, "Virtus Normativa: Rational Choice Perspectives", in Ethics, Vol. 100, No. 4 (July 1990), pp. 725-755 [READER pp. 57-72].
Moral Norms, Emotions, and Attitudes
1. Frank, PWR, Chapters 9-12, pp. 163-259.
2. Kahneman, Knetsch, and Thaler, "Fairness and the Assumptions of Economics", in RC, pp. 101-116.
3. Kunreuther comments on Kahneman, et al., in RC, pp. 145-148.
4. Schweder comments on Kahneman, et al., in RC, pp. 163-165.
WEEK #8 (Feb. 23-27)
What is Game Theory a Theory of?--Economics Meets Psychology
1. Tversky and Kahneman, , "Rational Choice and the Framing of Decisions", in RC, pp. 67-94.
2. Simon, "Rationality in Psychology and Economics", in RC, pp. 25-40.
3. Plott, "Rational Choice in Experimental Markets", in RC, pp. 117-143.
4. Thaler comments in RC, pp. 95-100.
5. Winter's comments and The Classic Defense, in RC, pp. 243-250.
6. Zeckhauser comments in RC, pp. 251-265.
The Allais Paradox--A Case Study
1. Leonard J. Savage, "Allais' Paradox", in Gardenfors and Sahlin, eds.
Decision, Probability, and Utility, pp. 163-165 [READER pp. 73-74].
WEEK #9 (Mar. 2-6)
Evolution and Game Theory: The Evolution of Rationality
1. Colman, GTA, Chapter 11, pp. 272-293.
2. Skyrms, Evolution of the Social Contract , Chap. 1, pp. 1-21 [READER pp. 88-98].
3. Debra Satz and John Ferejohn, "Rational Choice and Social Theory", Journal of Philosophy 94 (1994), pp. 71-87 [READER pp. 99-107].
Group Selection and Social Identity
1. Wilson and Sober, "Reintroducing Group Selection to the Human Behavioral
Sciences", Behavioral and Brain Sciences 17 (1994), pp. 585-608 [READER
WEEK #10 (Mar. 9-13) [FINAL EXAM REVIEW QUESTIONS DISTRIBUTED IN CLASS ON WED., MAR. 11; FINAL PROJECTS TURNED IN AND COURSE EVALUATIONS COMPLETED ON FRI., MAR. 11]
The Evolution of Social Institutions
1. Elster, Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences, Chap. XV, pp. 147-158 [READER pp. 81-87].
2. Donald T. Campbell, "Rationality and Utility from the Standpoint of Evolutionary Biology", in RC, pp. 171-180.