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Paradigm Shift in Game Theory: Sociological Re-Conceptualization of Human Agency, Social Structure, and Agents’ Cognitive-Normative Frameworks and Action Determination Modalities

Tom R. Burns (), Ewa Roszkowska, Nora Machado Des Johansson () and Ugo Corte ()
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Tom R. Burns: Department of Sociology, University of Uppsala, 75220 Uppsala, Sweden
Nora Machado Des Johansson: Lisbon University Institute (ISCTE), 1000-260 Lisbon, Portugal
Ugo Corte: Department of Sociology, University of Uppsala, 75220 Uppsala, Sweden

Social Sciences, 2018, vol. 7, issue 3, 1-40

Abstract: This article aims to present some of the initial work of developing a social science grounded game theory—as a clear alternative to classical game theory. Two distinct independent initiatives in Sociology are presented: One, a systems approach, social systems game theory (SGT), and the other, Erving Goffman’s interactionist approach (IGT). These approaches are presented and contrasted with classical theory. They focus on the social rules, norms, roles, role relationships, and institutional arrangements, which structure and regulate human behavior. While strategic judgment and instrumental rationality play an important part in the sociological approaches, they are not a universal or dominant modality of social action determination. Rule following is considered, generally speaking, more characteristic and more general. Sociological approaches, such as those outlined in this article provide a language and conceptual tools to more adequately and effectively than the classical theory describe, model, and analyze the diversity and complexity of human interaction conditions and processes: (1) complex cognitive rule based models of the interaction situation with which actors understand and analyze their situations; (2) value complex(es) with which actors operate, often with multiple values and norms applying in interaction situations; (3) action repertoires (rule complexes) with simple and complex action alternatives—plans, programs, established (sometimes highly elaborated) algorithms, and rituals; (4) a rule complex of action determination modalities for actors to generate and/or select actions in game situations; three action modalities are considered here; each modality consists of one or more procedures or algorithms for action determination: (I) following or implementing a rule or rule complex, norm, role, ritual, or social relation; (II) selecting or choosing among given or institutionalized alternatives according to a rule or principle; and (III) constructing or adopting one or more alternatives according to a value, guideline, or set of criteria. Such determinations are often carried out collectively. The paper identifies and illustrates in a concluding table several of the key differences between classical theory and the sociological approaches on a number of dimensions relating to human agency; social structure, norms, institutions, and cultural forms; patterns of game interaction and outcomes, the conditions of cooperation and conflict, game restructuring and transformation, and empirical relevance. Sociologically based game theory, such as the contributions outlined in this article suggest a language and conceptual tools to more adequately and effectively than the classical theory describe, model, and analyze the diversity, complexity, and dynamics of human interaction conditions and processes and, therefore, promises greater empirical relevance and scientific power. An Appendix provides an elaboration of SGT, concluding that one of SGT’s major contributions is the rule based conceptualization of games as socially embedded with agents in social roles and role relationships and subject to cognitive-normative and agential regulation. SGT rules and rule complexes are based on contemporary developments relating to granular computing and Artificial Intelligence in general.

Keywords: classical and sociologically inspired game theories; agency; social structure; norms; roles; institutions; rule regimes; open games; game transformation (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: A B N P Y80 Z00 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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