What Is Normal Form Game Theory?


Diego Sanchez

Normal Form Game Theory is a mathematical framework used to analyze decision-making in situations where the outcome depends on the actions of multiple individuals or entities. It is a powerful tool that has applications in fields such as economics, political science, and computer science. In this article, we will explore what Normal Form Game Theory is and how it works.

What Is a Normal Form Game?

A Normal Form Game is a mathematical representation of a strategic interaction between multiple players. In this game, each player has a set of possible strategies that they can choose from. The outcome of the game depends on the combination of strategies chosen by all players.

For example, consider the following scenario: two companies are deciding whether to enter into an advertising war. If both companies advertise heavily, they will both lose money due to the high costs of advertising.

If neither company advertises, they will both lose out on potential sales. If only one company advertises heavily while the other does not, then the advertising company will gain market share at the expense of their competitor.

This scenario can be represented as a Normal Form Game using a matrix with two rows (one for each player) and two columns (one for each possible strategy). The payoffs for each player are listed in the cells of the matrix.

How Does Normal Form Game Theory Work?

Normal Form Game Theory uses various concepts to analyze strategic interactions between players. One such concept is Nash Equilibrium, which is a set of strategies where no player can improve their payoff by unilaterally changing their strategy.

In our previous example, there are two Nash Equilibria: either both companies choose not to advertise or one company advertises while the other does not. If both companies advertise heavily, they will end up with lower payoffs than if they had chosen another strategy.

Another important concept in Normal Form Game Theory is Dominant Strategy, which refers to a strategy that is always the best choice for a player regardless of the other players’ strategies. In our example, neither company has a dominant strategy.

    The Prisoner’s Dilemma

    The Prisoner’s Dilemma is a classic example of a Normal Form Game. In this scenario, two suspects are being interrogated separately by the police.

    If both suspects stay silent, they will both receive a light sentence. If one suspect confesses while the other stays silent, the confessor will receive a reduced sentence while the other suspect will receive a harsh sentence. If both suspects confess, they will both receive a moderate sentence.

    The Nash Equilibrium in this scenario is for both suspects to confess, even though this results in a worse outcome than if they had both remained silent.


    Normal Form Game Theory is an important tool for analyzing strategic interactions between multiple players. It provides insights into how individuals and entities make decisions in situations where their actions affect others’ outcomes. By understanding concepts such as Nash Equilibrium and Dominant Strategy, we can better understand how to navigate complex decision-making scenarios.

In conclusion, Normal Form Game Theory is an essential framework that has numerous applications in various fields. With its mathematical tools and concepts such as Nash Equilibrium and Dominant Strategy, it provides valuable insights into strategic decision-making scenarios between multiple players.