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A GAME THEORETIC APPROACH TO INTERACTIONS AT PARTIES

LUKE G. FITZPATRICK

Abstract. This paper investigates a mathematical model created to describe appropri-


ate actions in times of dire need: namely, how women should behave at parties in order to
achieve maximum social payoff and whether or not men should approach them at parties
in order to sleep with them. Several potential equilibria are considered. Two pooling
equilibria exist: both involve approaching women when beliefs about their type are high
enough. The sole separating equilibrium of the game is when relations-seeking women
act cold and men approach these cold women, and when non-relations-seeking women act
friendly and men avoid them.

1. Introduction
Game theory is frequently used in applications requiring strategic interaction between
two or more parties. One such situation often overlooked by economists and mathemati-
cians is the social interaction between men and women at social gathering (namely, a
party.) When men enter college as libidinous eighteen year olds, they are generally riddled
with hormones. This indicates that all men want to engage in relations. It is unknown
whether or not women are similarly riddled with hormones, but all men certainly are. In
this model, men are assumed to be constantly seeking relations (both men and women
know this.) Women may or may not be seeking relations; this is considered the state of
the world. For this paper, relations-seeking women that are approached end up having
relations. This is reflected in their payoffs: when relations-seeking women are approached,
they receive higher payoffs than when they are not approached. Relations-averse women,
however, have varying payoffs. These will be described in more detail within.
The game described herein is a form of signaling game. Women (senders) at a party
are either of type relations-seeking or not relations-seeking. Whichever state they are in
is determined by nature before signals are sent or received. Men at the party (receivers)
observe the way women act (the signal.) Men are unable to tell the type of women with
whom he interacts but can clearly see the message she sends, and selects his action (from
a set of two actions) based on the signal and what his beliefs are regarding the state of the
world.
There is a considerable literature regarding signaling games in economics, behavioral
biology, and evolutionary biology. This paper falls into none of these categories due to two
hefty assumptions described below. These assumptions facilitate an unreasonably ideal
world in which numerical values may be assigned to sex.

Date: 4.18.2011.
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2 LUKE G. FITZPATRICK

Assumption 1. No pregnancies result from any relations shared between players of this
game, and no actions or messages seen in this game are the result of messages or actions
from previous games.
Assumption 2. The only relations that will take place in this game will occur when a
relations-seeking female is approached by a male.
Simply put, whether or not relations are shared in this game is solely the result of actions
taken and messages sent in this game. Females are not concerned with whether or not they
will be impregnated and males will not worry whether or not they will contract some sort of
heinous infection1. Additionally, the only kind of relations that take place in this game are
consensual ones. While there are myriad publications of signaling games involving animals
looking to mate or job candidates seeking employment, this paper is excluded from such
literature due to it’s excessive silliness.
When SR women are approached, they have relations. Any other combination of type
and action result in no relations occurring. This stems from the assumption that all men are
relations-seeking and is illustrated by their highest payoffs occurring when they approach
relations-seeking women.
In order for a set of actions to be considered a perfect equilibrium of this Bayesian game,
several criteria must be met. The actions taken must be consistent beliefs of the men. Also,
the beliefs must be consistent with initial probabilities and probabilities after application
of Bayes’ rule. Just like simple Nash equilibria, all players must not be incentivized to
deviate from their strategy.
The primary contribution of this paper is to shed a minuscule amount of light on how
men should act in a specific situation when faced with a very specific set of choices (two.)
Obviously, there exists no way to attach a discrete numerical value to the pleasure either a
man or woman receives from the outcome of an evening, and as a result this paper should
not be taken seriously at all. Additionally, while it may objectify women, I should be quick
to point out that it certainly objectifies men as well.

2. Model
The probability that women are relations seeking is θ and the probability that they are
not relation-seeking is 1 − θ. This probability is simply nature’s likelihood that a woman
at a party will be relations seeking. It is distributed uniformly from zero to one. The
µi values seen at the corners of the extensive form represent the beliefs held by the men
that a woman is seeking relations give the signal sent. Similarly1 − µi denotes the beliefs
that a woman is not relations seeking. As such µC is the belief that a women is seeking
relations given she is cold and µF is the belief that a woman is relations seeking given she
acts friendly.
The payoffs assigned to each result came from two sources. First, rough intuition.
An example of such intuition is the following: ff a relations-seeking girl ended up having
1
The highly idealized world sprung forth from these ridiculous assumptions quickly eliminates any aca-
demic validity generated by typesetting in LATEX or the use of fancy formatting.
A GAME THEORETIC APPROACH TO INTERACTIONS AT PARTIES 3

theory game tree.png

Figure 1. Extensive Form Representation

relations, then intuitively she would achieve a higher payoff than when she did not (was not
approached.) The second comes from women and men describing the relative enjoyment
they would receive when faced with different situation. For example, women I spoke
with indicated that when acting cold and still having relations they would achieve higher
enjoyment than when acting friendly and having relations. Men surveyed indicated similar
feelings: having relations with a woman that was playing ”hard to get” would be more
satisfying.

3. Equilibria
In this game two types of equilibria were investigated. The first, separating equilibria,
occur when women of one type send one signal and the opposite type sends the opposite
signal. The second type, pooling equilibria, occur when both types send the same signal.
3.1. Separating Equilibria. The first potential equilibrium tested was the most intuitive:
women that seek relations act friendly and women that do not seek relations act cold. In
this situation, when men observe friendly women, they believe with probability one that
these friendly women are relations-seeking. Therefore, they approach them. When men
observe cold women, they believe they are not relations-seeking. These beliefs are inherent
to the concept of Bayesian equilibrium. Given these beliefs, they would approach friendly
women and avoid cold women to maximize their own payoffs. The relations seeking girl
will be satisfied with her payoff of 1. The non-relations seeking girl, however, will benefit
from lying and acting friendly. Since friendly girls get approached in this equilibrium, it
would benefit them to deviate from their initial strategy and act friendly. This will give
them a higher payoff (2 instead of 1.) The deviation in strategy keeps this situation from
being a Bayesian equilibrium.
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The next equilibrium investigated was the opposite separating equilibrium. Relations
seeking women act cold (think of playing ”hard-to-get”) and non-relations seeking women
act friendly. As such, in this situation µC is equal to 1 and µF is equal to zero. Men
therefore avoid friendly women and approach cold women. In both situations, men will
achieve a payoff of 2. Relations-seeking women will also receive 2 and will not want to
deviate. Similarly, non-relations seeking women will decrease their payoff from 0 to -1
if they deviate from their strategy of acting cold. Therefore, this situation is a perfect
Bayesian equilibrium.
3.2. Pooling Equilibria. The two possible pooling equilibria are when women always act
friendly or always act cold. The actions of men will be determined by their beliefs about
what type the woman is. If women always act friendly, then the beliefs men have about
their types when seeing a friendly women will be equal to θ and 1 − θ, nature’s probabilities
of a relations seeking woman and non-relations seeking women, respectively. In order to
determine a man’s actions, we must determine the value of θ at which he is indifferent
between approaching women and not approaching women. To do this, we set his expected
payoffs equal between the two. His expected payoff for approaching a friendly woman is
(1) EU (approach) = θ − 2(1 − θ)
and his expected payoff from not approaching a friendly woman is
(2) EU (avoid) = −2θ + 2(1 − θ)
By setting equations (1) and (2) equal to each other, we find the point of indifference
between approaching and avoiding friendly women is
(3) θ∗ = 4/7
Therefore, we can believe that he will approach friendly women when his beliefs that she
is relations-seeking are high enough: that is, when θ is greater than or equal to 4/7. To
fully describe this situation, however, we must understand what the man will do when he
encounters a cold woman. Using similar methods, we can determine the point of indifference
of µC . From this we can determine what his actions will be.
(4) EU (approach) = 2µc − 3(1 − µc )

(5) EU (avoid) = −µc + 1 − µc


By setting the above two equations equal, we find the point of indifference is µ∗c =4/7. For
the purpose of simplicity, we assume that in this situation µc will be approximately equal
to zero. This simplification will help men avoid cold girls. If you see a cold girl in this
equilibrium, just assume she is not relations seeking and avoid her.
When θ < 4/7 the man will avoid a friendly woman. Since the non-relations seeking
woman would benefit by deviating to acting cold (she will still be avoided) then this
situation is not a perfect Bayesian equilibrium. However, we can say that the pooling
equilibrium where women act friendly and men approach them when θ is high enough is
in fact a perfect Bayesian equilibrium.
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The other pooling equilibrium to be investigated is when women always act cold. Using
the same mathematical method as above, the point of indifference between approaching
and avoiding cold women is when θ = µc = 4/7. If θ is high enough, then a man should
approach a cold woman. Now we make a similar assumption as earlier to describe the
man’s actions when encountering a friendly woman. It is assumed that µF is close to
1, or friendly women are relations-seeking. Therefore, he should approach the a friendly
woman. If θ is less than 4/7 then the man should avoid cold women. This situation is not
an equilibrium since a non-relations seeking woman would benefit by deviating to acting
nice. She will then be approached and achieve a payoff of 2 instead of -1.

4. Conclusion
The simple game theoretic approach applied to this specific situation yielded a fairly
limited understanding to how a man ought to act given a woman’s behavior at a party.
This model had arbitrary payoffs, binary action sets, and a binary state of the world. Given
these conditions, it is fair to say that no one should use this model when out a a party and
trying to maximize their utility. Even so, the model yielded three equilibria, as described
above.
This model could be strengthened in two ways. First, the payoffs assigned to each
outcome could become continuous variables with greater than/less than relations instead
of discrete values. This would allow for a more general description of the problem. Second,
the assumptions made in the pooling equilibria that friendly girls are relations-seeking
and non-relations girls are cold could be more precise. Those two assumptions were made
simply to give men an easy rule of thumb when dealing with women at parties, which is
essentially as simple as solving complex social issues like how to eliminate world hunger
and how to reduce extreme poverty in the developing world.
Department of Economics, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL 33146. I greatly ap-
preciate the help offered by Alissa Farina, Jacqueline Nye, Lauren Coughlin, and Tiffany
Walter in constructing the quantifiable values for female payoffs. All mistakes are theirs.