Gaming to Reduce Conflict

Conflict management is something that many groups, teams and organizations have to deal with on a regular basis in order to successfully work together. There are many different approaches to analyzing conflict management, such as verbal judo and Blake and Mouton’s Conflict Grid. But what if I told you that there was a way to look at conflict management from the perspective of a logical game?

In the preceding video, they discuss the “prisoner’s dilemma,” an exercise devised by Merrill Flood and Melvin Dresher in 1950, which pioneered John Nash’s founding of the general concept of game theory in that same year. The exercise analyzes how above all else, the primary focus of any person is in the well-being of themselves, and that when stuck in a win-lose situation with others, they will try to ensure that they win regardless of whether other people do or not. This can be problematic in a group setting, because when a person chooses to lookout for themselves instead of looking out for the entirety of the group, it can create a fissure in the working dynamics of that group and cause it to crumble. As mentioned in the video, the applications of prisoner’s dilemma can be applied to many different situations in real life.

As much as I dislike talking about politics, let’s use this year’s election as an example. Many people do not want Donald Trump to win the election and so they are left with the options of Hillary Clinton (which some people either hate or consider the lesser of two evils), voting third party or not voting at all. Ignoring those who choose not to vote at all, there are still two options for your vote. Sadly, the amount of actual people who would be voting third party is not enough to sway the vote in their favor and is actually hindering Clinton from being able to win from a lack of votes. The situation then is that you either vote for Clinton¬†and explain to others why voting third party isn’t the best idea for this current election, or somehow manage to convince every¬†single person who would vote for Clinton to vote third party and vote for Gary Johnson. Let me draw it out for you.

Political Prisoner's Dilemma

They vote for ClintonThey vote third party
You vote for ClintonClinton has a high chance of winning the electionNeither Clinton or Johnson wins the election
You vote third partyNeither Clinton or Johnson wins the electionGary Johnson might possibly win the election

In a perfect world where everyone who was voting was fully aware of what and who they were voting for, this wouldn’t actually work as a good conceptual model for who to vote for, because it would be a nonissue. However, the reason I bring this up is because of an issue I had where someone running a booth at the Atlanta Pride Parade this year was trying to persuade me to vote for Johnson, saying that if enough people were to do so, he could win the election. The problem with that logic is that as a third party, Gary Johnson has a very small platform for his political beliefs and not everyone is politically savvy enough to even understand why voting for him would be a good thing. At this point in the election process, advocating for people to vote for Johnson is only splitting the vote against people who would otherwise be voting for Clinton (and let’s ignore the outlier of people who are only voting third party because they don’t want to vote for Trump or Clinton, because they don’t like either of them) and making it more difficult for Trump to lose. Of course there are a lot of other factors involved which makes this more complex than using prisoner’s dilemma as logical reasoning, but it still works to simplify the logic of why people shouldn’t vote for Johnson as an alternative to Clinton.

Well how else am I going to vent about my important issues, Facebook? *Disclaimer: Yes, I know what this image is related to, but, no, I do not watch MLP.*
Well how else am I going to vent about my important issues, Facebook? *Disclaimer: Yes, I know what this image is related to, but, no, I do not watch MLP. The imagery is just fitting to the topic of this post.*

Getting off of my soapbox rant and back to the topic at hand, game theory works to help people come to many different decisions, but the biggest decision that people should focus on is how their choice affects the group. When you choose to support the group instead of choosing to support your own selfish desires, the best outcome arises where everyone wins.

2 comments on “Gaming to Reduce Conflict

  1. Game theory is an extremely interesting concept and I love that Tubbs decided to include it’s application to group interactions in his book. When working in groups it’s important to remember who will fall into those selfish and self promoting ideals of the prisoners dilema and how to work your way around them while still getting the project completed. Tricky stuff.

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