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Battle of the sexes (game theory)

For other uses, see Battle of the sexes (disambiguation). players of the game have access to a commonly observed
randomizing device, then they might decide to correlate
their strategies in the game based on the outcome of the
In game theory, battle of the sexes (BoS) is a two-player
coordination game. Imagine a couple that agreed to meet device. For example, if the couple could ip a coin be-
fore choosing their strategies, they might agree to corre-
this evening, but cannot recall if they will be attending the
opera or a football match (and the fact that they forgot is late their strategies based on the coin ip by, say, choos-
ing football in the event of heads and opera in the event
common knowledge). The husband would prefer to go
to the football game. The wife would rather go to the of tails. Notice that once the results of the coin ip are
opera. Both would prefer to go to the same place rather revealed neither the husband nor wife have any incentives
than dierent ones. If they cannot communicate, where to alter their proposed actions that would result in mis-
should they go? coordination and a lower payo than simply adhering to
the agreed upon strategies. The result is that perfect co-
The payo matrix labeled Battle of the Sexes (1)" is an ordination is always achieved and, prior to the coin ip,
example of Battle of the Sexes, where the wife chooses the expected payos for the players are exactly equal.
a row and the husband chooses a column. In each cell,
the rst number represents the payo to the wife and the
second number represents the payo to the husband. 1.1 Working out the above
This representation does not account for the additional
harm that might come from not only going to dierent Let us calculate the four probabilities for the actions of
locations, but going to the wrong one as well (e.g. he goes the individuals (Man and Woman), which depend on their
to the opera while she goes to the football game, satisfy- expectations of the behaviour of the other, and the relative
ing neither). To account for this, the game is sometimes payo from each action. These four probabilities are:
represented as in Battle of the Sexes (2)".
The Man goes to the Football (resp. Opera), de-
Some authors refer to the game as Bach or Stravinsky
noted by MF (resp. MO).
and designate the players simply as Player 1 and Player 2,
rather than assigning gender.[1] The Woman goes to the Football (resp. Opera), de-
noted by WF (resp. WO).

1 Equilibrium analysis The Probability that the Man goes to the Football game,
MF, equals the payo if he does (whether or not the
woman does), divided by the same payo plus the payo
This game has two pure strategy Nash equilibria, one if he goes to the opera instead:
where both go to the opera and another where both go to
the football game. There is also a mixed strategies Nash
equilibrium in both games, where the players go to their WO + 3WF WO + 3WF
preferred event more often than the other. For the payos MF = =
WO + 3WF + 2WO + 0WF 3WO + 3WF
listed in the rst game, each player attends their preferred
event with probability 3/5. We know that she either goes to one or the other, so WO +
This presents an interesting case for game theory since W F = 1 , so:

each of the Nash equilibria is decient in some way. The

two pure strategy Nash equilibria are unfair; one player
consistently does better than the other. The mixed strat- MF = 13 (WO + 3WF )
egy Nash equilibrium (when it exists) is inecient. The
players will miscoordinate with probability 13/25, leav- Similarly:
ing each player with an expected return of 6/5 (less than
the return one would receive from constantly going to
ones less favored event). MO = 32 WO
One possible resolution of the diculty involves the use WF = 3 MF
of a correlated equilibrium. In its simplest form, if the WO = 31 (3MO + MF )


This forms a set of simultaneous equations. We can solve MF = 1

these, starting with MF for example, by substituting in
the equations above: MO = 0

WF = 23 MF = 2
1 1
(2 ))
MF = (3MO + MF ) + 3 3 MF WO = 1 2
= 1
(3 ) 3 3
= MO + 73 MF
( ) Em = MF WF Emmf wf +MF WO Emmf wo+
= 3 1 + 43 MF MO + MF = 1
MO WO Emmowo + MO WF Emmowf
Solving the last equation for MF yields:
Em = 1 32 3 + 1 13 1 + 0 13 2 + 0 23 0 = 7

MF = 3 This is symmetric for Ew if the woman always goes to the

opera and the man chooses randomly with probabilities
Knowing that MF + MO = 1 , we deduce: based on the expected outcome, due to the symmetry in
the value table. But if both players always do the same
thing (both have simple strategies), the payo is just 1
MO = 1 3
= 2 for both, from the table above.
5 5

WF = 23 MF = 2

WO = 1 2
5 = 3
2 Burning money
Then we can calculate the probability of coordination P c
(that M and W do the same thing, independently), as: Interesting strategic changes can take place in this game
if one allows one player the option of "burning money"
that is, allowing that player to destroy some of her utility.
32 23 12 Consider the version of Battle of the Sexes pictured here
P c = MF WF + MO WO = 5 5 + 5 5 = 25
(called Unburned). Before making the decision the row
And the probability of miscoordination P m (that M and player can, in view of the column player, choose to set re
W do dierent things, independently): to 2 points making the game Burned pictured to the right.
This results in a game with four strategies for each player.
The row player can choose to burn or not burn the money
and also choose to play Opera or Football. The column
P m = MF WO + MO WF = 35 53 + 25 52 = 13 25 player observes whether or not the row player burns and
And just to check our probability working: then chooses either to play Opera or Football.
If one iteratively deletes weakly dominated strategies then
one arrives at a unique solution where the row player does
Pc + Pm = 12
25 + 13
25 = 25
25 =1 not burn the money and plays Opera and where the col-
umn player plays Opera. The odd thing about this result
So the probability of miscoordination is 25 as stated is that by simply having the opportunity to burn money
above. (but not actually using it), the row player is able to se-
The expected payo E for each individual ( Em and Ew cure her favored equilibrium. The reasoning that results
) is the probability of each event multiplied by the payo in this conclusion is known as forward induction and is
if it happens. For example, the Probability that the man somewhat controversial. For a detailed explanation, see
goes to football and the Woman goes to football multi- p8 Section 4.5. In brief, by choosing not to burn money,
plied by the Expected payo to the man if that happens the player is indicating she expects an outcome that is bet-
( Emmf wf ): ter than any of the outcomes available in the burned
version, and this conveys information to the other party
about which branch she will take.
Em = MF WF Emmf wf +MF WO Emmf wo+MO WO Emmowo+MO WF Emmowf

Em = 32
5 53 + 33
5 51 + 23
5 52 + 22
5 50 = 39
25 3 Battle of the Sexes Game with
Which is not the same as the 6
5 stated above! Ambiguity
For comparison, let us assume that the man always goes
to football and the woman, knowing this, chooses what to Decisions are said to be ambiguous if there are no ob-
do based on revised probabilities and expected values to jective probabilities given and it is dicult or impossible
her: to assign subjective probabilities to events. Kelsey and

le Roux (2015) report an experimental test of the inu-

ence of ambiguity on behaviour in a Battle of Sexes game
which has an added safe strategy, R, available for Player 2
(see Table). The paper studies the behaviour of subjects
in the presence of ambiguity and attempts to determine
whether subjects playing the Battle of Sexes game prefer
to choose an ambiguity safe option.
The value of x, which is the safe option available to Player
2, varies in the range 60-260. For some values of x, the
safe strategy (option R) is dominated by a mixed strat-
egy of L and M, and thus would not be played in a Nash
equilibrium. For some higher values of x the game is
dominance solvable. The eect of ambiguity-aversion
is to make R (the ambiguity-safe option) attractive for
Player 2. R is never chosen in Nash equilibrium for the
parameter values considered. However it may be chosen
when there is ambiguity. Moreover for some values of x,
the games are dominance solvable and R is not part of the
equilibrium strategy. For a detailed explanation, see .
It was found that R is chosen quite frequently by sub-
jects. While the Row Player randomises 50:50 between
her strategies, the Column Player shows a marked prefer-
ence for avoiding ambiguity and choosing his ambiguity-
safe strategy. Thus, the results provide evidence that am-
biguity inuences behaviour in the games.

4 References
Luce, R.D. and Raia, H. (1957) Games and Deci-
sions: An Introduction and Critical Survey, Wiley &
Sons. (see Chapter 5, section 3).
Fudenberg, D. and Tirole, J. (1991) Game theory,
MIT Press. (see Chapter 1, section 2.4)

[1] Osborne, Rubinstein (1994). A course in game theory.

The MIT Press.

Kelsey, D. and S. le Roux (2015): An Experimental

Study on the Eect of Ambiguity in a Coordination
Game, Theory and Decision.

5 External links

Cooperative Solution with Nash Function by Elmer

G. Wiens

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