Insights from Game Theory into Social Behavior

A photograph of the Mona Lisa taken at the Louvre. Crowds of people can be seen in the reflection of the glass that encases the painting.

Crowds gather around Leonardo da Vinci's famous painting Mona Lisa. About six million people visit the painting in the Louvre each year. In lecture 16, the class discussed why people are so enamored with this painting. (Image courtesy of Charley Lhasa on Flickr. BY-NC-SA.)


MIT Course Number


As Taught In

Fall 2013



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Course Features

Course Description

We will apply insights from game theory to explain human social behavior, focusing on novel applications which have heretofore been the realm of psychologists and philosophers—for example, why people speak indirectly, in what sense beauty is socially constructed, and where our moral intuitions come from—and eschewing traditional economic applications such as industrial organization or auctions.

We will employ standard games such as the prisoners dilemma, coordination, hawk-dove, and costly signaling, and use standard game theory tools such as Nash Equilibria, Subgame Perfection, and Perfect Bayesian Equilibria. These tools will be taught from scratch and no existing knowledge of game theory, economics, or mathematics is required. At the same time, students familiar with these games and tools will not find the course redundant because of the focus on non-orthodox applications.

Hoffman, Moshe, and Erez Yoeli. 14.11 Insights from Game Theory into Social Behavior, Fall 2013. (MIT OpenCourseWare: Massachusetts Institute of Technology), (Accessed). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

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