Cooperation or Competition: Does Game Theory Have Relevance for Public Health?

By Westhoff, Wayne W.; Cohen, Cynthia F. et al. | American Journal of Health Education, May-June 2012 | Go to article overview

Cooperation or Competition: Does Game Theory Have Relevance for Public Health?


Westhoff, Wayne W., Cohen, Cynthia F., Cooper, Elizabeth Elliott, Corvin, Jaime, McDermott, Robert J., American Journal of Health Education


ABSTRACT

In this paper, we use game theory to understand decisions to cooperate or to compete in the delivery of public health services. Health care is a quasi-public good that is often associated with altruistic behavior, yet it operates in an increasingly competitive environment. With mounting health care regulation and changes in privatization, altruistic arguments give way to more competitive rationales for market decisions. Profit and not-for-profit institutions must address widespread health care needs while balancing the needs of more lucrative markets against the needs of lesser ones. Recognizing the roles of cooperation and competition as motivators in the delivery of health care to the public is imperative. We explore two game theory models (Nash's Equilibrium and the Prisoner's Dilemma) and their related concepts of simultaneous interdependence and rationality to examine decision-making. Four hypothetical public health case studies are presented. We conclude that understanding game theory and the factors influencing decisionmaking allows potential competitors to make more efficient decisions, including decisions to cooperate or compete. As public health agencies move toward more collaborative models of service delivery, such understanding may help enhance efficient and effective service delivery.

Am J Health Educ. 2012;43(3):175-183. Submitted September 28, 2009. Accepted February 25, 2012.

INTRODUCTION

Game theory is a mathematical approach to understanding decision-making and human behavior under various constraints and assumptions. This applied mathematical analysis explains options and outcomes for various social, economic and political behaviors. (1) The field of conflict resolution uses game theory as one of many important theoretical underpinnings, because understanding the reasons for cooperation and competition is fundamental to the discipline. (2) This paper examines the utility of using game theory to enhance understanding of cooperative and competitive choices made in various aspects of public health.

Most game theory models make several important assumptions. The two most salient may relate to interdependence and rationality. From the early theorizing of John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern (3) to the emergence of Nash's Equilibrium, (4) one of the major assumptions of game theory has been interdependence. Interdependence means that the players are affected by the joint sum of their combined decisions. Although each player is free to make an individual choice, the outcomes for all players are contingent on the sum of all the choices made by the group of players. Rationality implies that individual players will make choices that maximize their outcomes given their expectation of what other players might choose. As a result, when players make the choice to cooperate or compete, they attempt to anticipate the choices of others to make the most rational decision for themselves.

To understand how interdependence and rationality work, we must examine the choices available to the players and the outcomes each player receives based on these choices. Many game theory applications assume that players have a dichotomous choice between cooperation and competition (also called non-cooperation or defection in many applications). The combination of these choices (to compete or to cooperate) results in a series of payoffs to the players. Thus, although each player is free to make an individual choice, the payoff is a function of the joint set of choices made by all the players. For example, if both choose to cooperate, each one receives a given payoff. If both choose to compete, each one receives a given payoff. If one player chooses to cooperate and the other player chooses to compete, each player receives a given payoff. The value of the payoffs to the players can be similar or dissimilar. When the payoffs for all players for the same joint set of choices are the same, this is a symmetric payoff game. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Cooperation or Competition: Does Game Theory Have Relevance for Public Health?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.