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The World the Game theorists Made$
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Paul Erickson

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226097039

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226097206.001.0001

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Game Theory and Practice in the Postwar Human Sciences

Game Theory and Practice in the Postwar Human Sciences

(p.122) Chapter Four Game Theory and Practice in the Postwar Human Sciences
The World the Game theorists Made

Paul Erickson

University of Chicago Press

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, game theory became caught up in a heated and chaotic set of debates about nuclear strategy and the possibility of arms control Bertrand Russell and Herman Kahn invoked the game of “chicken” in discussions of international brinksmanship, and the “Prisoner’s Dilemma” emerged as a model of the Cold War arms race. Simultaneously, the problem of how to behave rationally when faced with such games became perhaps the central problem of the age. This chapter provides a window onto these debates by examining the use of game theory by a community of social and behavioral scientists affiliated with the University of Michigan’s Mental Health Research Institute and Center for Research on Conflict Resolution during this period. Here, game theory proved a powerful notational device capable of facilitating several interventions of behavioral science into debates over arms control and weapons policy. But while game theory could facilitate conversations across research scales and disciplinary divides, despite the hopes of some, it proved less successful at providing principles of rationality to forge consensus on how to solve problems of conflict resolution and arms control.

Keywords:   behavioral science, University of Michigan, Mental Health Research Institute, Center for Research on Conflict Resolution, arms control, nuclear strategy, conflict resolution, peace research

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