I want to make some important points about my last post, the victory of Tit for Tat, but before I do I want to talk about another kind of game that I will discuss along with Tit for Tat to make some observations about the Kingdom of God.
I want to talk about the Ultimatum Game, but let's start with cakes.
Cake cutting algorithms have long fascinated recreational mathematicians, and some professional ones as well. The classic cake cutting problem is this:
You have a cake that needs to be fairly divided between two people. Both people are self-interested in that each wants the biggest portion they can obtain. Can you identify a procedure for them to divide the cake that will ensure a fair division?
I pose this problem to my undergraduates and it doesn't take them too long to find the solution:
1. Have Person A make a cut.
2. Have Person B choose between the two pieces.
This procedure (i.e., algorithm) is assured to generate a fair division in that the self-interest of the players is harnessed to create fairness. Person A, who gets to make the cut, will not be the first to choose. Knowing Person B will select the larger of the two pieces after the cut, Person A will make the most even cut she can. After Person B chooses, if Person A doesn't like her piece she has no one to blame but herself. After all, she is the one who made the cut...
The 2-person cake cutting problem is, in the delightful parlance of mathematicians, trivial. What is less trivial is a 3-person cake cutting procedure. Then the 4-person. Then the 5-person. And so on. Given that mathematicians seek generality, what many look for is the N-person procedure, a generic procedure that can be used to ensure fair division from two people to two million.
All this is background for a game called the Ultimatum Game. The Ultimatum Game was invented by Werner Guth of Humboldt University in Berlin about 25 years ago. The Ultimatum Game has since begun to attract the attention of scores of social scientists and behavioral economists for what it is teaching us about human psychology and social relations.
Here is how the Ultimatum Game, reminiscent of the cake cutting problem, is played:
Two players have to divide $100.
Player A proposes a division (e.g., "$50 for me and $50 for you" or "$75 for me and $25 for you" or any other division).
Player B after hearing the proposed division has two choices:
1. Accept the division. If accepted, the players split the money as specified by the division taking home the money they were allotted.
2. Reject the division. If rejected, neither Player A or Player B get any money. Both go home with nothing.
Simple game, huh? Amazingly, however, this simple little game is shaking the foundations of classic economic theory.
Classic economic theory works with a model, Homo-economicus, "Economic Man." Economic Man is an idealized decision-maker, the person whose behavior classical economic theory attempts to predict with its rigorous mathematical equations. Some assumptions govern the behavior of Economic Man. Mainly, Economic Man is assumed to be a rational utility-maximizer. That is, given two choices Economic Man will behave in a "rational" manner by making the choice that will yield the greatest satisfaction (see my first post in this series). This assumption seems perfectly reasonable. But laboratory observations of real people in real interactions, such as the Ultimatum Game, are challenging this assumption. Perhaps Economic Man is not a good model for real, flesh-and-blood people.
To understand this, let's look at what economists would call the "rational strategies" Players A and B should follow in the Ultimatum Game. First, if Player A were rational, he should propose a very lopsided division, like "$95 for me and $5 for you." Why? Because Player B is assumed to be rational. That is, despite the unfair division proposed by Player A, Player B's choice is simple: Do I accept and go home with $5 or reject and go home with $0? Given the choice between $5 and $0 what would Economic Man choose? Economic Man, behaving rationally, goes with the $5.
But here is the problem. In the laboratory, people in the position of Player B, when presented with very lopsided offers, don't behave rationally. They get rather upset and reject the offer. Think about it. You're sitting with a stranger who can propose a nice, even, 50/50 division where both of you can walk out of the laboratory each with a cool $50 in your pocket. Instead, your partner (in the position of Player A) looks at you and says, "I'll take $99 and you can have $1." What would you do in this situation? Well, most of us would say, "Hey, that is greedy and unfair! So, no way you walk away with $99! I reject the division."
Interestingly, people in the Player A position seem to know this is coming. So, rather than assuming they are playing with "rational" players and, thereby, proposing very lopsided divisions, most players in the Player A position propose divisions close to 50/50. It seems that the people proposing the division know already they are playing with "emotional" rather than "rational" players. That is, many of us, when faced with an "unfair" division, would cut off our nose to spite our face.
Overall, then, in the Ultimatum Game most proposed divisions are close to 50/50. And these divisions are readily accepted. By contrast, lopsided divisions are not often proposed but, when they are, they are rejected. In sum, both in the proposing and in the accepting/rejecting normal people do not behave rationally. We are not, sad to say (if your are a classical economist), images of Economic Man.
What does all this have to do with the Kingdom of God and Tit for Tat? Lots. I'll get to all that tomorrow. But to give you some payoff for reading such a long post, let me give you peep at the topic for tomorrow...
The Ultimatum Game demonstrates that humans do have a "logic" of how relationships and social interactions are to be managed. And, as we have seen, it is not the logic of economics. Rather, it is a much cruder and simpler logic. A very powerful logic. It is the logic of fairness and reciprocity. The Ultimatum game illustrates the logic of fairness, we "irrationally" demand a "fair" division and will accept nothing less. Tit for Tat, although a computer program, nicely captures the reciprocity dominant in human relations, both the good (e.g., "You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours") and the bad (e.g., "An eye for an eye").
These mental biases for fairness and reciprocity are universal features of human nature, manifested across all cultures. Consequently, these biases form the foundation of humanity's innate moral psychology. And, as a start down the road of ethical living, fairness and reciprocity are not bad first steps.
But, although these first steps come naturally for humans, they set the bar too low. For citizens in the Kingdom of God, we are called to something higher. The question is, do we get there? Or, do we in the church reduce Kingdom living to simple reciprocity, attempting to keep our relations with others "balanced"?
Welcome to the blog of Richard Beck, professor and experimental psychologist at Abilene Christian University (brief vita).Richard is the author of Unclean, The Authenticity of Faith and The Slavery of Death. Experimental Theology is also available on the Kindle.
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The Theology of Johnny Cash
Warfare and Weakness: A Vision for Progressive Theology
- Part 1: A Real Fight
- Part 2: A Theology of Revolt
- Part 3: About Those Angels and Demons...
- Part 4: To Go To War We Need a Weaker God
- Part 5: The Weakness of God
- Part 6: Let There Be Light
- Part 7: The Victory of the Lamb
- Part 8: A Creation Theology of the Quotidian
- Interlude: In Memory of the White Rose
- Part 9: Wickedness in High Places
- Part 10: Jesus Went About...
- Epilogue: Final Reflections on Progressive Theology
The Little Way of St. Thérèse of Lisieux
The William Stringfellow Project (Ongoing)
- Van Ministry
- Wednesday Night Church
- Morning Prayer at San Buenaventura Mission
- The Halo of Overalls
- The Hands of Christ
- The Farmer's Market
- Subversion and Shame: I Like the Color Pink
- The Bureaucrat
- Uncle Richard, Vampire Hunter
- Freedom Fellowship
- Palm Sunday with the Orthodox
- Looking Like Jesus (or a Crazy Person)
- Freedom Rider
- On Maps and Marital Spats
- Get on a Bike...and Go Slow
- Buying a Bible
- Memento Mori
- We Weren't as Good as the Muppets
- Uncle Richard and the Shark
- Growing Up Catholic
- Ghostbusting (Part 1)
- Ghostbusting (Part 2)
- My Eschatological Dog
- Meditations on Y'all
- Tex Mex and Depression Era Cuisine
- Aliens at Roswell
- Driving to Pizza House
On the Principalities and Powers
- The Preferential Option for the Poor
- The Political Theology of Les Misérables
- Good Enough
- On Anarchism and A**holes
- Christian Anarchism
- A Restless Patriotism
- Wink on Exorcism
- Images of God Against Empire
- A Boredom Revolution
- The Medal of St. Benedict
- Exorcisms are about Economics
- "Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?"
- "A Home for Demons...and the Merchants Weep"
- Tales of the Demonic
- The Ethic of Death: The Policies and Procedures Manual
- "All That Are Here Are Humans"
- Ears of Stone
- The War Prayer
- Letter from a Birmingham Jail
- The Hormonal God
- Covenantal Substitutionary Atonement
- Open Communion: Warning!
- The Missional and Apostolic Nature of Holiness
- Love is the Allocation of Our Dying
- The Satanic Church
- A Community Called Forgiveness
- Easter Shouldn't Be Good News
- Jesus Stopped: On Interruptibility
- The Gospel According to Lady Gaga
- Your God is Too Big
- Marriage as Spiritual Failure
From the Prison Bible Study
Series/Essays Based on my Research
- The Conflicts of Love
- Death and Christian Art, Part 1
- Death and Christian Art, Interlude
- Death and Christian Art, Part 2
- Death and Christian Art, Part 3
- Satan and the Emotional Burden of Monotheism
- Death, Gnosticism and the Incarnation
- Summer and Winter Christians
- Sinning in Your Heart
- Quest Religious Orientation
- Satan as a Functional Theodicy
- Attachment to God
- PostSecret, Part 1
- PostSecret, Part 2
- PostSecret, Part 3
- PostSecret, Part 4
- PostSecret, Part 5
The Theology of Calvin and Hobbes
The Theology of Peanuts
Reflections on Gender and the Church
- Can Patriarchalists Pray the Lord's Prayer?
- Power and Gender: Among Us It Shall Be Different
- Call No Man on Earth Father
- Head Coverings: Why Female Hair is a Testicle
- A Letter to My Church on Women's Roles
- Pragmatics or Power in Patriarchy?
- Whores: A Meditation on Gender and the Bible
- On Masculine Christianity and Powerplays
- Thoughts on Mark Driscoll While I'm Knitting
- Ambivalent Sexism
- Direct Your Hearts to Her
- Gender, Submission and Ecosystems of Abuse
The Snake Handling Churches of Appalachia
How Facebook Killed the Church
Blogging about the Bible
- Control Your Vessel
- Circumcised Ears
- Forgive Us Our Trespasses
- Doing Beautiful Things
- The Most Remarkable Sequence in the Bible
- Targeting the Dove Sellers
- Christus Victor in Galatians
- Devoted to Destruction: Reading Cherem Non-Violently
- The Triumph of the Cross
- The Threshing Floor of Araunah
- Hold Others Above Yourself
- Blessed are the Tricksters
- Adam's First Wife
- I Am a Worm
- Christus Victor in the Lord's Prayer
- Let Them Both Grow Together
- Here I Am
- Becoming the Jubilee
- Sermon on the Mount: Study Guide
- Treat Them as a Pagan or Tax Collector
- Going Outside the Camp
- Welcoming Children
- The Song of Lamech and the Song of the Lamb
- The Nephilim
- Shaming Jesus
- Pseudepigrapha and the Christian Witness
- The Exclusion and Inclusion of Eunuchs
- The Second Moses
- The New Manna
- Salvation in the First Sermons of the Church
- "A Bloody Husband"
- Song of the Vineyard
- The Jubilee
Bonhoeffer's Letters from Prision
Civil Rights Family Trip
Demons and The Powers
- Part 1: Thinking about Demons
- Part 2: Evil and Illness in Modernity
- Part 3: Evil as Residual
- Part 4: The Language of The Powers
- Part 5: The Angels of the Nations
- Part 6: Yoder on The Powers
- Part 7: The Spirituality of The Powers
- Part 8: The Inner Aspect of Material Power
- Part 9: Stringfellow on The Powers
- Part 10: Demons in the Gosples
The Midrash of R. Crumb
Theology and Evolutionary Psychology
- Prelude: Galileo's Dilemma
- Part 1: Natural and Sexual Selection
- Part 2: On the Sweet Tooth (and Morality as Dieting)
- Interlude: Emoticons
- Part 3: Evolution and Human Sexuality
- Part 4: Sexual Jealousy
- Part 5: Kin Selection and Family Values
- Part 6: The Storge to Xenia Shift
- Part 7: Reciprocity
- Part 8: Moralistic Aggression
Scripture and Discernment
- Songbooks vs. the Psalms
- Biblical as Sociological Stress Test
- Cookie Cutting the Bible: A Case Study
- Pawn to King 4
- Allowing God to Rage
- Poetry of a Murderer
- On Christian Communion: Killing vs. Sexuality
- Heretics and Disagreement
- Atonement: A Primer
- "The Bible says..."
- The "Yes, but..." Church
- Human Experience and the Bible
- Discernment, Part 1
- Discernment, Part 2
- Rabbinic Hedges
- Fuzzy Logic
Interacting with Good Books
- Torture and Eucharist
- How Much is Enough?
- From Willow Creek to Sacred Heart
- The Catonsville Nine
- Daring Greatly
- On Job (Gutiérrez)
- The Selfless Way of Christ
- World Upside Down
- Are Christians Hate-Filled Hypocrites?
- Christ and Horrors
- The King Jesus Gospel
- The Bible Made Impossible
- The Deliverance of God
- To Change the World
- Sexuality and the Christian Body
- I Told Me So
- The Teaching of the Twelve
- Evolving in Monkey Town
- Saved from Sacrifice: A Series
- Darwin's Sacred Cause
- Evil in Modern Thought, Part 1
- Evil in Modern Thought, Part 2
- Evil in Modern Thought, Part 3
- The Black Swan, Part 1
- The Black Swan, Part 2
- Rapture Ready!
- A Secular Age
- The God Who Risks
- The Evolution of Cooperation
- On Apology
- The Beautiful
- The Sensory Boundary
- Elizabeth Smart and the Psychology of the Christian Purity Culture
- On Love and the Yuck Factor
- Ethnocentrism and Politics
- Flies, Attention and Morality
- The Banality of Evil
- Regarding Sex
- The Ovens at Buchenwald
- Violence and Traffic Lights
- Defending Individualism
- Guilt and Atonement
- The Varieties of Love and Hate
- The Wicked
- Moral Foundations
- Primum non nocere
- The Moral Emotions
- The Moral Circle, Part 1
- The Moral Circle, Part 2
- Taboo Psychology
- The Morality of Mentality
- Moral Conviction
- Holiness and Moral Grammars
Experiments in Quantitative Ecclesiology
The Theology of Everyday Life
- Faith as Honoring
- This Ritual of Hallowing
- The Impossibility of Calvinistic Psychotherapy
- Hating Pixels
- Dress, Divinity and Dumbfounding
- The Kingdom of God Will Not Be Tweeted
- The Ethics of :-)
- On Snobbery
- The F-word
- Can you sin on a deserted island?
- Ironic Christians
- Everything I learned about life I learned coaching tee-ball
- Gossip, Part 1: The Food of the Brain
- Gossip, Part 2: Evolutionary Stable Strategies
- Gossip, Part 3: The Pay it Forward World
- Sinning in Your Heart?, Part 1: The Morality of Mentality
- Moral Progress, Part 1
- Moral Progress, Part 2
- Human Nature
- On Humility
Dogmatism & Doubt: Curing the Religious Disease
Sticky Theology (Why is Bad Theology so Popular?)
- Love and Freedom
- On Hell and Holocausts: Comparing Annihilationism and Universalism
- Being Hopeful and Dogmatic
- Holiness in Heaven?
- Universalism and the New Perspective on Paul
- A Googolplexian Hell
- The Best Ending to the Christian Story: An Exchange with Daniel Kirk
- Universalism and the Bondage of the Will
- Universalism and the Prophetic Imagination
- Universalism and Theodicy
- Universalism FAQ & Answers
- Universalism: A Summary Defense
- Why I Am a Universalist Series (and Resources)
Alone, Suburban & Sorted
The Theology of Monsters
Original Sin: A New View
The Theology of Ugly
A Walk with William James
- Part 1: The Jamesian Situation
- Part 2: Habit
- Part 3: Belief as Vote
- Part 4: Pragmatism and the Emerging Church
- Part 5: Theology is a Fork
- Part 6: Ontological Emotion
- Part 7: Religious Surrender
- Part 8: Introverts at Church
- Part 9: Bubbles in the Sun
- Part 10: Ghostbusting
- Part 11: The Empirical Trace
- Part 12: Saintliness
Preparing for the Cartesian Storm (Free Will & Souls in the Age of Neuroscience)
Musings On Faith, Belief, and Doubt
- A/theism and the Transcendent
- Kingdom A/theism
- The Ontological Argument
- Cheap Praise and Costly Praise
- Wired to Suffer
- A New Apologetics
- Orthodox Alexithymia
- High and Low: The Psalms and Suffering
- The Buddhist Phase
- Skilled Christianity
- The Two Families of God
- The Bait and Switch of Contemporary Christianity
- Evil and Evolution: Thoughts on Enns and Smith
- Theodicy and No Country for Old Men
- Doubt: A Diagnosis
- Faith and Modernity
- Faith after "The Cognitive Turn"
- The Gifts of Doubt
- A Beautiful Life
- Is Santa Claus Real?
- The Feeling of Knowing
- Practicing Christianity
- In Praise of Doubt
- Skepticism and Conviction
- Pragmatic Belief
- N-Order Complaint and Need for Cognition
- Kingdom A/theism
The Theology of Humor
Game Theory and the Kingdom of God
- Advent: Learning to Wait
- A Christmas Carol as Resistance Literature: Part 1
- A Christmas Carol as Resistance Literature: Part 2
- It's Still Christmas
- Easter Shouldn't Be Good News
- The Deeper Magic: A Good Friday Meditation
- Palm Sunday with the Orthodox
- Growing Up Catholic: A Lenten Meditation
- The Liturgical Year for Dummies
- "Watching Their Flocks at Night": An Advent Meditation
- Pentecost and Babel
- Ambivalence about Lent
- On Easter and Astronomy
- Christmas & TV, Part 1: The Grinch
- Christmas & TV, Part 2: Misfits
- Christmas & TV, Part 3: Charlie Brown
- Sex Sandals and Advent
- Freud and Valentine's Day
- Existentialism and Halloween
- Halloween Redux: Talking with the Dead
- Jesus Would Be a Hufflepuff
- The Moral Example of Captain Jack Sparrow
- Weddings Real, Imagined and Yet to Come
- Michelangelo and Neuroanatomy
- Believing in Bigfoot
- The Kingdom of God as Improv and Flash Mob
- 2012 and the End of the World
- Chocolate Jesus
- The Polar Express and the Uncanny Valley
- Why the Anti-Christ Is an Idiot
- On Harry Potter and Vampire Movies