THE GAME THEORIST'S GUIDE TO PARENTING by Paul Raeburn
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THE GAME THEORIST'S GUIDE TO PARENTING

How the Science of Strategic Thinking Can Help You Deal with the Toughest Negotiators You Know—Your Kids
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Game theory strategies to handle everyday parental quandaries, especially the unpleasant variety.

For those who cannot quite grasp the significance of the prisoner’s dilemma, then game theory may seem a rarefied guide to parenting. However, Raeburn (Do Fathers Matter?, 2014, etc.) and Zollman (Philosophy/Carnegie Mellon Univ.) put the math on the back burner and bring the commonsensicality of the theory to the fore. Game theory is about how we play, interact, and negotiate, where doing one thing will affect what the other does in response. It is about strategy and anticipation, and while “game theory can get complicated,” write the authors, “in most situations you need to know only three things: the players, their preferences, and what they can do.” Most parents appreciate their children’s preferences and abilities, so the game is on. Raeburn and Zollman begin with a simple example: cake cutting. Their remedy: “one cuts, and one picks.” This is equitable, but if half the cake is chocolate and half vanilla, it may not be optimally gratifying if you get the less-desired flavor. From there, game theory helps us with measures (and evolutionary value) of fairness, how we divvy things that can’t be cut up, and the “mix of economics and psychology that recognizes how motivations other than money shape…decisions that seem to defy classical economics”—i.e., behavioral economics. There is a fluid, natural feel to the authors’ examples, such as self-enforcing contracts and the hot thinking vs. cool thinking behind self-control. Only occasionally do they tender the obvious—e.g., “being consistent will help.” But even that seemingly apparent piece of advice follows from their discussion of Kidd’s theory, as does the proposal to explain “why they will have a better life if they act as moral people.”

Tantalizing perspectives on cultivating sharing, honesty, and cooperation via game theory.

Pub Date: April 5th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-374-16001-2
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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