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2019/20 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

PIED5735M Conflict, Cooperation and Strategic Decision Making

30 creditsClass Size: 15

Module manager: Dr Viktoria Spaiser

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2019/20

This module is not approved as an Elective

Module summary

Game theory is the mathematical modelling of strategic interaction among rational (and irrational) agents. Beyond what we call `games' in common language, such as chess, poker, soccer, etc., it includes the modelling of conflict, competition, coordination and cooperation. As such it is highly relevant to studying conflict and cooperation among nations, competition among political parties or political leaders, public goods dilemmas etc. How can we begin to model conflict and cooperation situations without accounting for the incentives of the people involved? The course will provide the basics: representing games and strategies, the extensive form (called game trees), repeated games, Bayesian games (modelling things like reputation), and more. The course will include a variety of examples including classic games and a range of political science and international relations applications.


The module is designed with the goal of introducing students to rigorous analytical thinking, specifically to make use of Game Theory to analyse conflict and social dilemma situations and consider possible solutions. The Game Theory will be explicitly applied to study common themes in political science and international studies. Students will be taught the basics of Game Theory and its applications, such as zero-sum/non-zero sum games, cooperative/non-cooperative games, symmetric/asymmetric games, simultaneous/sequential games, coordination games, evolutionary game theory, public goods games, etc. with a brief excurse into Bayesian Games.

Learning outcomes
The students will get an understanding of the basics of Game Theory and how to apply Game Theory analytical tools to analyse real world political situations of conflict and social dilemma. This course is an introduction that will bring students also in the position of understanding debates and studies involving Game Theory. They will be able to collaborate with others in projects where Game Theory is used as analysis framework. They will also be able to perform simple game theoretical analyses themselves and will be able to build on the fundamentals taught in the course if they wish to continue expanding their Game Theory analytics skills. Beyond that the course will teach students generally to take a more systematic analytical approach in their (political) thinking.


• Introduction, Core Concepts & Terms, History, Motivation
• Symmetric Zero-Sum Games (Prisoner’s Dilemma, Game of Chicken, Stag Hunt), Nash Equilibrium, Dominant Strategies, Application: Conflict, War and Arms Races, Trust Dilemma
• Asymmetric games with non-identical strategies, Alternate Solution Concepts, Ultimatum Game, Dictator Game, Application: Fairness and Justice
• Games with repeated interactions (Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma), Tit-for-Tat, Application: War, Conflict Mitigation
• Mixed Strategies & Mixed Equilibrium, Application: Compliance
• Simultaneous & Sequential Games, the role of information (perfect vs. imperfect information, complete vs. incomplete information), Crisis Bargaining Model, Application: Distribution of Power, Risk of War
• Extensive-Form Games, Game Trees, Entry Game, Signalling Games Application: Opposition, Bargaining
• Coordination Games, Battle of the Sexes, Application: International Cooperation and Regimes
• Multi-agent games, Evolutionary Game Theory, Public Goods Games, Hawk Dove Game, War of Attrition Game, Application: Cooperation in Societies, Social Order
• Cooperative or Coalition Games, Application: Cost Allocation, International Relations
• Bayesian Games, Reputation/Signalling Games, Application: Reputation and Leadership

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Group learning167.0067.00
Private study hours0.00
Total Contact hours100.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)100.00

Private study

Weekly reading in preparation to lectures and tutorials
Weekly optional assignments (game theory analysis exercises)

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Students will be given weekly optional assignments (game theoretical analysis exercises), which will be assessed by the module reader, giving students formative feedback throughout the course

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay1 x 3000 word End of term essay80.00
Group Project1 x 1000 word Mid term essay20.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 07/10/2019


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