Game Theory and Political Theory >> Content Detail



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Course Description

Increasingly, political scientists are using game theory to analyze strategic interactions across many different settings. Each of the sub-fields, to differing degrees, has seen game theoretic concepts enter its vocabulary, and students entering the profession will need to understand the potential and limits of game theory. This course aims to give students an entry-level understanding of the basic concepts of game theory, and how these concepts have been applied to the study of political phenomena. Students will leave the course with a working knowledge of games of complete information, to the point where they can write down a model correctly, solve it, and elucidate some of the model's empirical implications. Students will also have an introductory knowledge of games of incomplete information.

Because an important component of game theory in political science and political economy is the analysis of substantive political phenomena, we will cover illustrative examples each week in combination with methodological developments. The political and economic phenomena that we will examine include legislative rules, nuclear deterrence, electoral competition, and imperfect markets. The purpose of these examples is not to offer a complete review of the literature. Rather, the examples are employed to provide students with the ability to analyze strategic situations and evaluate existing models in the field.

This class requires careful and systematic reasoning. Although many of the tools used in this course are mathematical in nature, there is no formal mathematical prerequisite. We will use basic probability and calculus, but if you do not have a strong background in these subjects, we will cover the relevant topics in sections.

Required Reading Materials

There are two required texts for the class:

Amazon logo Gibbons, Robert. Game Theory for Applied Economists. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992. ISBN: 9780691003955.

Amazon logo Morrow, James D. Game Theory for Political Scientists. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994. ISBN: 9780691034300.


  1. Problem Sets: There will be weekly problem sets. These are worth 60% of your grade (approximately 5% per problem set). It is best to do these in groups.

  2. Final Exam: There will be a comprehensive final exam. The final will be an in-class exam based on the lessons of the problem sets. It is worth 40% of your grade.


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