What is game theory in international relations

Game Theory for Political Scientists: An Introduction

Course content

Game theory models are an essential part of modern political science theory building and have grown in importance. Game theory is one of the most developed decision theories as well as a methodical approach to the analysis of interdependent decisions and strategic action. Game theory is therefore not only fundamental for understanding formal political theory, but is also widely used in many other research fields such as international relations or the new political economy. The aim of the course is to introduce methods and concepts of game theory. The exercise first introduces rational choice based decision theories and social choice approaches. On this basis, the different forms of play (normal and extensive games) are then dealt with and various approaches to solutions (equilibrium concepts) are discussed. The application of game theory methods is illustrated using numerous political science examples. In the course, sample tasks are calculated and scientific papers that use game theory models are discussed. The participants are expected to independently solve the exercises given in the seminar and to be willing not to be put off by Greek letters and to deal with simple mathematical concepts that are taught in the course.


  • James D. Morrow (1998): Game Theory for Political Scientists. Princeton UP. Martin J. Osborne (2004): An Introduction to Game Theory. Oxford: Oxford UP.

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