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Rational Behavior in Politics: Evidence from a Three Person Game*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 August 2014

William H. Riker
Affiliation:
University of Rochester
William James Zavoina
Affiliation:
Florida State University

Extract

A fundamental controversy in political theory from ancient times until the present concerns the rationality of political actors, what it is, if it exists at all, and whether or not humans display it in politics. Many political scientists are impatient with this controversy because it remains open after so much (apparently futile) discussion. But they ought not be. The problem of rationality is necessarily imbedded in even the simplest kinds of political research, where, if overlooked, it can occasion misinterpretation and even outright error.

Suppose, for example, in an investigation of legislators one uses the notion of party loyalty as an independent variable to explain behavior. This notion seems simple and straightforward enough and not, therefore, likely to involve one in philosophical controversy. But in fact party loyalty can be interpreted in a variety of ways and the choice among them necessarily involves a choice on one side of the controversy over rationality. Loyalty can be thought of, for example, as a truly independent variable, as a product of political socialization, as an expression of affect, and hence as an essentially irrational motive. On the other hand, it may be thought of as itself dependent on bargains rationally satisfying the preferences of legislators. Such bargains may be either short term or long term so that a legislator's manifest party loyalty may result from a series of advantageous bargains with party leaders on particular bills or from an implied bargain with them on career advantage.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © American Political Science Association 1970

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Footnotes

*

The work on this essay was undertaken with the support of a grant from the National Science Foundation. We thank the Foundation very much.

References

1 Friedrich, Carl J. (ed.), Nomos VII: Rational Decision (New York: Atherton Press, 1964)Google Scholar. There is, however, one work which blends the old and the new very nicely, Diesing, Paul, Reason in Society (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1962)Google Scholar.

2 This question, while superficially resembling the old one, differs in the expectation that goals be empirically investigated rather than attributed in arm-chair dicta.

3 Lasswell, Harold, Psychopathology and Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1930)Google Scholar.

4 Lane, Robert, Political Ideology (Glencoe: The Free Press, 1962)Google Scholar.

5 Lazarsfeld, Paul, Berelson, Bernard, and Gaudet, Hazel, The People's Choice (N.Y.: Duell, Sloan, and Pearce, 1944)Google Scholar. Berelson, Bernard, Lazarsfeld, Paul, and McPhee, William, Voting (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1954)Google Scholar. Key, V. O., The Responsible Electorate (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1966)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

6 Riker, William H. and Ordeshook, Peter, “A Theory of the Calculus of Voting,” this Review, 62 (1968), 2542Google Scholar.

7 Braybrooke, David and Lindblom, Charles, Strategy of Decision (Glencoe: The Free Press, 1963)Google Scholar.

8 Fenno, Richard, The Power of the Purse (Boston: Little Brown and Co., 1966)Google Scholar. Davis, Otto, Dempster, M. A. H., and Wildavsky, Aaron, “A Theory of the Budgetary Process,” this Review, 60 (1964), 529547Google Scholar.

9 Riker, William H., “Bargaining in a Three Person Game,” this Review, 61 (1967), 642656Google Scholar.

10 von Neumann, John and Morgenstern, Oskar, The Theory of Games and Economic Behavior (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1953, 3rd edition), pp. 403418Google Scholar. A simple exposition of the derivation of this solution from the notions of utility theory can be found in Luce, R. D. and Raiffa, Howard, Games and Decisions (New York: Wiley, 1957), pp. 200203Google Scholar, and William H. Riker, “Bargaining in a Three Person Game,” op. cit.

11 For groups one to three, see Riker, “Bargaining in a Three-Person Game;” for groups four to seven, see Riker, , “An Experimental Interpretation of Formal and Informal Rules of a Three Person Game,” in Lieberman, Bernhardt, Social Choice (forthcoming)Google Scholar.

12 By reason of another consideration this one case in which rejection of the null hypothesis is feasible does not invalidate the inference because the exception has a special explanation. See William H. Riker, “Experimental Interpretation….” In groups 1–3, 5, and 6, the order of negotiations was [(1,2), (1,3), (2,3)1 so that player 1 was omitted from the last certain conversation. For group 7, the order was [(2,3), (1,2), (1,3)], so that 2 was omitted, while for group 4, it was [(2,3), (1,3), (1,2)], so that 3 was omitted. The effects of omission were, for 1 and 2, that they simply did not win as frequently as might be expected although they won the expected amounts in each match. Player 3, however, won just about as frequently when omitted, but won significantly less money. Recognizing that this variation in outcome was thus occasioned by the informal rule that brought the mathematical game into temporal reality, we can then understand that this one deviation in the outcomes reflects not a failure to achieve the rational solution but rather a rational adjustment of the solution in response to a special rule.

13 Details for the test of each case are available from the authors.

14 We wish to thank Gerald Kramer for help in developing this test.

15 Zavoina, William James, The Rational Calculus of Coalition Formation, unpublished Ph.D. thesis. University of Rochester (1969)Google Scholar.

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