The study of game theory reveals the secret to taming bullies and blackmailers

Game theory is a branch of mathematics that studies strategic interactions. The most famous example is the prisoners’ dilemma, in which two separate prisoners must cooperate independently and face minor consequences, or betray the other for potential personal gain, risking severe consequences if both choose to betray.

new Stady From Dartmouth, published in PNAS NexusUse game theory to develop “endless strategies” for overcoming bullies. Strategies in the study, such as the Memory-one PSO Gambler, WSLS, and Zero Determinant, orient the dynamics toward fairness and cooperation, even when faced with players trying to take advantage of others.


“Unyielding players who choose not to be blackmailed can fight back by refusing to fully cooperate. They also give up part of their reward, but the blackmailer loses more,” said Chen, who is now an assistant professor at Peking University of Postgraduates. and communications.

“Our work shows that when confronted with an unending player, the blackmailer’s best response is to offer a fair split, thus ensuring an equal reward for both parties,” she said. In other words, fairness and cooperation can be fostered and enforced by unwavering players.

“The practical insight from our work is for the weaker parties to be incoherent and resist being the first to concede, thus turning the interaction into an ultimatum game in which extortionists are motivated to be more fair and cooperative to avoid ‘losing’ situations,” Fu said.

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