Payoffs: A Simulation of
Mark A. Boyer
Relative gains versus absolute gains; zero-sum versus non-zero-sum games; balance of threat versus bandwagoning in alliance formation; cycling in coalition politics. Any political scientist who has tried to teach these concepts at the undergraduate or graduate level likely recalls the quizzical looks he or she has received from students grappling with these abstractions of international relations. The problem is not only one of introducing students to the technical way these concepts are often presented in the cutting-edge research of our field. It is also one of dealing with a level of abstraction in these concepts that makes it difficult for students to understand the relevance of such ideas in their everyday life.
The simulation laid out in this chapter is designed to provide social science instructors with a method for teaching such abstractions to their students in an active learning environment. It is also a way for students to understand the concepts of mixed-motive negotiations without necessarily having to decipher the often heavily formal theoretical constructs of the field. In terms of the intellectual genesis of this simulation, it was created out of the need to teach some rather technical material on coalition formation found in Chapter 17 of Howard Raiffa's The Art and Science of Negotiation.1 Faced with a group of graduate students who were not enjoying other pieces of formal theory, I found this simulation to provide a useful tool to teach Raiffa's material without directly working through the formal logic. Nonetheless, this simulation produced an understand-