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Game Theory and Emotions


  • Brams, S.J.


To illustrate the rational-choice modeling of emotions, a game-theoretic model of frustration, in which players respond in anger to their lack of control, is developed. Of the 57 distinct 2 × 2 strict ordinal conflict games, 12 turn out to be `frustration games', in four of which `threat power', based on the theory of moves, offers relief to the frustrated player. Aristophanes' play, Lysistrata , in which the frustrated women induce the men to stop fighting by abstaining from sex, illustrates the exercise of this power. Shakespeare's Macbeth , in which Lady Macbeth, furious at her husband's vacillation, incites him to murder King Duncan, illustrates the choice of `non-myopic equilibria' in six `self-frustration games'. In both cases, the players, who start out at inferior states, move initially to still worse states, exploding in anger to effect better outcomes. Conditions are given for the rationality of such moves.
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Suggested Citation

  • Brams, S.J., 1995. "Game Theory and Emotions," Working Papers 95-23, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  • Handle: RePEc:cvs:starer:95-23

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Barron, John M & Black, Dan A & Loewenstein, Mark A, 1989. "Job Matching and On-the-Job Training," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 7(1), pages 1-19, January.
    2. Prescott, Edward C & Boyd, John H, 1987. "Dynamic Coalitions: Engines of Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(2), pages 63-67, May.
    3. Jovanovic, Boyan & Nyarko, Yaw, 1994. "The Bayesian Foundations of Learning by Doing," Working Papers 94-15, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
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    Cited by:

    1. Annick Laruelle & Federico Valenciano, 2005. "A critical reappraisal of some voting power paradoxes," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 125(1), pages 17-41, July.
    2. Feng, Dai & Yuan-Zheng, Zhong, 2006. "The Stochastic Advance-Retreat Course: An Approach to Analyse Social-Economic Evolution," MPRA Paper 117, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. P. James, 1990. "The Canadian National Energy Program and Its Aftermath: A Game-theoretic Analysis," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 16(2), pages 174-190, June.
    4. Casella, Alessandra & Gelman, Andrew & Palfrey, Thomas R., 2006. "An experimental study of storable votes," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 123-154, October.
    5. Silvia Fedeli & Francesco Forte, 2001. "Voting Powers and the Efficiency of the Decision-Making Process in the European Council of Ministers," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 12(1), pages 5-38, July.
    6. Jan-Willem Rijt, 2008. "An Alternative Model of the Formation of Political Coalitions," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 64(1), pages 81-101, February.
    7. Christina Schneider, 2007. "Enlargement processes and distributional conflicts: The politics of discriminatory membership in the European Union," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 132(1), pages 85-102, July.
    8. Carlo Carraro, 1997. "Modelling International Policy Games: Lessons from European Monetary Coordination," Empirica, Springer;Austrian Institute for Economic Research;Austrian Economic Association, vol. 24(3), pages 163-177, October.

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