Game theory is a mathematical approach used to analyze and model complex decision-making scenarios. It has become increasingly popular in policy making due to its ability to provide insights into strategic interactions between individuals, organizations, and governments. In this article, we will explore how game theory is used in policy making.

Understanding Game Theory

Game theory is the study of decision-making in situations where two or more individuals or organizations are involved. In these situations, the outcome of one individual’s decision depends on the decisions made by others. Game theory provides a framework for analyzing these interactions and predicting their outcomes.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma

The most famous example of game theory is the Prisoner’s Dilemma. This scenario involves two criminals who are arrested and interrogated separately.

The police offer each criminal a deal: if one confesses and implicates the other, they will receive a reduced sentence while the other criminal will receive a harsher sentence. If both confess, they both receive a reduced sentence, but not as reduced as if only one had confessed. If neither confesses, they both receive a moderate sentence.

This scenario demonstrates how rational individuals may make decisions that are not optimal for themselves or society as a whole. In this case, both criminals would be better off if neither confessed, but because they do not know what the other will do, they end up confessing and receiving harsher sentences.

Using Game Theory in Policy Making

Game theory can be applied to various policy-making scenarios to analyze potential outcomes and inform decisions. For example:

Criticisms of Game Theory

While game theory has become popular in policy making, it is not without its criticisms. Some argue that it relies too heavily on assumptions about human behavior and rational decision making, which may not always hold true. Others argue that it ignores important factors such as emotions, culture, and power dynamics.


In summary, game theory is a powerful tool for analyzing strategic interactions between individuals and organizations. It has become increasingly popular in policy making due to its ability to provide insights into complex decision-making scenarios. While it is not without its criticisms, game theory remains a valuable approach for informing policy decisions.