Lecture 05 Class Notes

Notes from 9-22-10
• Decision making can be enhanced by drawing from both rational actor and relational models. Think of them as 2 ends of a spectrum (or at least complementary models).
• Different goals with both models
• rational actor: maximization of benefit. In the modern world, acting more scientifically. Used by the social sciences, natural sciences, business government, and modern life.
• Relational: integration of system, goes along with adaptability. Ecological thinking needs to come back towards this.
• Historically: through most of human history decisions were made using the relational actors model. The rational model emerged from relational because of the scientific movement to do things more logically. Over time there has been a push from relational to rational, but we need to push back towards relational.

The Collective action problem/prisoners dilemma:
• Develop an intuitive understanding of the collective action problem, as expressed in the prisoners’ dilemma.
• How the structure of this problem leads to outcomes.
• Get some sense of how we can promote mutually beneficial outcomes.
• These models ask us to imagine a highly stylized world—imagine away all of life outside this one decision.
• They are useful in helping us to understand how the structure of the decision problem leads to outcomes, and from them we want to develop some sense of how to promote mutually beneficial outcomes.

• Both parties face a binary choice. From her perspective—if she cooperates, she gets either 15 or 0. If she defects, she gets 20 or 5. Whatever he chooses, she does better by choosing defect. From his perspective, irrespective of what she chooses, he does better by choosing defect. For both of them, regardless of the other’s choice, it is rational to choose “defect.”
• If they both defect, they can both see that they did ok, but they could have done better by both choosing “cooperate.” Even if it is individually rational to choose “defect,” it is collectively sub-optimal.
• The essence of the “collective action problem” is that both sides could have done better, simultaneously, but it is difficult for individuals to agree as a group to cooperate in a way that both sides benefit. Given the structure of the problem, the individuals are simply acting rationally.
• It follows that if you want a better outcome, you should change the structure of the game (this is what we did in section, by repeating the game).
o Repeating the game/decision point increases cooperation, on average. By creating an expectation of an indefinite future, it is likely that there will be even more cooperation. Doing one thing sends a signal that you are likely to do that again.
o If you allow for communication, you also tend to get better outcomes. By establishing a relationship with the counterpart, the model essentially changes from rational actor to relational.
o Other changes that might produce better outcomes—
• Change choices, or introduce more choices.
• Change the whole game
• Combine scores between rounds
• Add spectators (incorporate social attitudes about cooperation/non-cooperation)
• Lower payoffs for defecting, or raise rewards for cooperating.
• Introduce 3rd party negotiator to change payoffs (through taxes and subsidies) and make cooperation more likely. By building institutions, we can change the payoffs so that they’ll be mutually beneficial.
• Eliminate individual choices and make them collective.
• Add a 4th party and make all parties equal.

Related notes on readings:
Graham Allison—
p. 29—The rational actor model is narrowly constrained, has neatly confined situations (we must abstract away reality).
P. 30—concept of rational behavior is a powerful explanatory principle because it can explain people’s behavior in terms of very simple assumptions and goals. The assumption that an actor is acting to maximize power, this simple assumption can explain many foreign policy decisions.
P. 35—Analytical method from a rational actor perspective is that of vicarious problem solving. The analyst puts himself in the place of the individual or nation and uses principles of rational actor to sift through commissions and omissions and look for evidence for reasons those decisions were made. (example: why do we continue to subsidize petroleum extraction? Why is all action on climate change taken at the local, state, and regional level?).

p. 183—persons act ethically b/c they want to maintain their membership in the group.
P. 188—people’s goal is to adapt to the place, not only as a home but as an extension of themselves.
P. 190—boundaries and a systems approach to sustainability. We have to draw boundaries because every system actually has boundaries. When people do not recognize the boundaries, there’s no intimacy developed between a people and their homeland. This has important implications for the global ecological crisis because people do not feel attached to the ecological system