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PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e56751. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0056751. Epub 2013 Feb 25.

Game theory, conditional preferences, and social influence.

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  • 1Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, United States of America.


Neoclassical noncooperative game theory is based on a simple, yet powerful synthesis of mathematical and logical concepts: unconditional and immutable preference orderings and individual rationality. Although this structure has proven useful for characterizing competitive multi-player behavior, its applicability to scenarios involving complex social relationships is problematic. In this paper we directly address this limitation by the introduction of a conditional preference structure that permits players to modulate their preference orderings as functions of the preferences of other players. Embedding this expanded preference structure in a formal and graphical framework provides a systematic approach for characterizing a complex society. The result is an influence network that allows conditional preferences to propagate through the community, resulting in an emergent social model which characterizes all of the social relationships that exist and which leads to solution concepts that account for both group and individual interests. The Ultimatum game is presented as an example of how social influence can be modeled with conditional preferences.

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