How Game Theory Can Be Used To Explain Human Behavior | Erez Yoeli

We know human behavior isn’t rational. But this episode illustrates behavior using a surprising concept – game theory. This eye opening conversation with Erez Yoeli delves into what game theory is and the remarkable way it can be used to explain the things we think, feel and do.

Our guest, Erez Yoeli has co-authored a new book, alongside Moshe Hoffman, called “Hidden Games: The Surprising Power of Game Theory to Explain Irrational Human Behavior”. Erez is a research scientist at the MIT Sloan School of Management and he teaches the undergraduate Game Theory course at Harvard. His research focuses on altruism: understanding how it works and how to promote it.

To explain what exactly game theory is, we have turned to Britannica’s user-friendly definition;“economics is much like a game, wherein players anticipate each other’s moves, and therefore, it requires a new kind of mathematics, which they called game theory.” This explanation opens the door to exploring how our behavior is influenced by our anticipation of the moves and choices of those around us.

The key attribute of a coordination game is holding constant with what the other players are doing, I prefer to do that same action. ~ Erez Yoeli, Episode 333 Click To Tweet

We hope you enjoy our fun and mind blowing chat with Erez on how game theory can bridge the divide between the rationality of classical economics and the irrationality of behavioral science. If you are a regular listener to Behavioral Grooves, please consider supporting the production of the podcast through Patreon. Or write a review of the podcast on whatever app you’re listening on. Thanks!


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(2:47) Welcome and speed round questions.

(4:59) What exactly is game theory?

(10:03) The Prisoners Dilemma.

(13:23) Erez’s favorite game theory model.

(14:48) What are categorical norms?

(17:07) Game theory and gender balance.

(23:26) The distinction between errors of omission and commission.

(27:26) How we can look at behavioral science differently.

(28:51) What is motivated reasoning?

(32:22) Can exchanging rocket fire actually maintain peace?

(39:45) What would Erez’s desert island music be?

(44:00) Grooving Session with Kurt and Tim on Hidden Games.


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What You Can Listen To Next

Episode 329, Why Do Good People Let Bad Things Happen? With Max Bazerman


AIRDATE: December 12, 2022 EPISODE 333

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How Game Theory Can Be Used To Explain Human Behavior | Erez Yoeli