Speaker: Jessica Flack
Abstract. Along with climate change and poverty, conflict is perhaps the most important contemporary challenge to the integrity of society and to improving individual quality of life. Yet in many respects little is understood about the dynamics of conflict, including its causes and consequences. Is resource competition the major cause of conflict, or other factors, such as memory for past conflict events. What individual behaviors and decision-making rules promote conflict? To date most studies of conflict use simple but elegant equilibrium models based on game theory to investigate when it pays to engage in conflict. Although these models have been very powerful, they have significant limitations in that they require that strategies and the costs and benefits of their interaction are known, and they are weakly tied to real world data. Here we develop a new statistical method, which we call Inductive Game Theory, that allows the researcher to extract directly from time series data, candidate decision-making rules individuals use when deciding to fight, and the implications of alternative decision-making rules for conflict duration, cost and social stability. Understanding the implications of conflict decision-making and the role of memory in conflict dynamics is a crucial step towards designing better methods for its management and control.