What Is an Incredible Threat in Game Theory?


Diego Sanchez

Game theory is a branch of mathematics that explores decision-making in situations where multiple players are involved. In game theory, an incredible threat refers to a strategy that a player uses to deter their opponent from taking certain actions. The use of an incredible threat can be a powerful tool in game theory, but it can also lead to unintended consequences.

What is an incredible threat?

An incredible threat is a strategy used in game theory where one player threatens to take an action that would be harmful to both players. The key characteristic of this type of threat is that it is not credible, meaning that the player making the threat would not actually follow through with it if their opponent did what they were threatening against.

For example, imagine two countries are negotiating over disarmament. Country A could make an incredible threat by saying they will launch all their nuclear weapons if Country B does not agree to disarm. This type of threat is not credible because it would result in mutually assured destruction for both countries.

The power of an incredible threat

Despite their lack of credibility, incredible threats can be effective in deterring opponents from taking certain actions. This is because the opponent may fear the potential consequences of the threatened action and decide it’s not worth taking the risk.

In game theory, this concept is known as the “fear of irrationality.” If one player believes their opponent may act irrationally, they may choose a less desirable option simply to avoid potential harm.

For example, imagine two companies are bidding on a contract. Company A could make an incredible threat by saying they will lower their prices to a point where they would lose money if Company B wins the contract. While this isn’t a credible threat (as Company A wouldn’t actually want to lose money), Company B may still be deterred from bidding too aggressively for fear of triggering such behavior.

  • The risks of using an incredible threat

While incredible threats can be effective, they also come with risks. One major concern is that the opponent may not believe the threat is incredible and may instead see it as a credible threat.

If the opponent believes the threat is credible, they may take actions to defend themselves against the threatened action. This could lead to a costly arms race or other negative consequences.

Another risk of using an incredible threat is that it can damage trust between players. If one player makes an incredible threat and then does not follow through with it, their opponent may view them as untrustworthy in future negotiations.


The use of an incredible threat in game theory can be a powerful tool, but it should be used with caution. While these threats can deter opponents from taking certain actions, they also come with risks and unintended consequences.

Players should carefully consider the potential outcomes of making an incredible threat before using this strategy in negotiations. By understanding both the benefits and risks of this technique, players can make more informed decisions and achieve more favorable outcomes in game theory scenarios.