Schelling's Game Theory: How to Make Decisions

By Robert V. Dodge | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
Vicarious Thinking

The essential frame of mind to adopt for strategic thinking is to view interactions vicariously when making a decision or solving a problem. This is critical: put yourself in the other’s place and anticipate the solution from his position. It is the first step to seeing how your choice will affect the choice of the person or group with which you are interacting.

At times when you might be attempting to agree but are unable to communicate directly, you must rely on thinking vicariously. Such is the not uncommon case of the husband and wife separated in a supermarket, wondering how to find each other. They could each think, “Where would he/she most likely go for us to meet?” That might work. Their chances improve when they also think, “Where would he/she think that I would think he/she would think we would go?” That is vicarious thinking. Such thinking was dramatically portrayed in the fantasy film The Princess Bride.1 The evil Sicilian kidnapper Vizzini was confronted by the heroic Man in Black, who set out two wine goblets, one of which apparently contained an odorless, deadly poison. The Man in Black said, “All right. Where is the poison? The battle of wits has begun. It ends when you decide and we both drink, and find out who is right and who is dead.” Vizzini had to think as his opponent, stating: “Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I’m not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool; you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.”2

This chapter presents part of a questionnaire (called here Questionnaire A) that has been used many times since it first appeared years ago in the inaugural issue of the Journal of Conflict Resolution.3 It measures this basic skill and was originally sent to forty-two individuals. Their responses were matched after they had completed it on their own. To be of use, your answers must be compared with those of someone else. For instructional purposes the “someone else” is this book and “someone else’s” answers appear in the appendix.

Answer Questionnaire A, following the Schelling instruction, “What would I do if I were playing this game?” Do not look at the answers in the appendix until you complete all eighteen responses. The analysis in the appendix is based on years of

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