Political Science 304
Game Theory in Political Science

Course Syllabus
Winter 2015
TTh 9:30 - 10:45 a.m. in 170 TNRB

Instructor: Jay Goodliffe
Office: 734 SWKT
Office Hours: MW 3-4 p.m., or by appointment
Phone: 422-9136
e-mail: goodliffe@byu.edu


Office Hours
Learning Outcomes
How to Succeed in this Course
Academic Honesty and Plagiarism


I regularly make announcements, clarifications, further instructions, etc., in class and by email and Learning Suite. You are responsible for all of these, even if you do not attend class. You are also responsible for keeping your email up to date at my.byu.edu. (You should let me know if your email changes during the semester.) I suggest that you exchange phone numbers and/or e-mail addresses with other students in the class.

I will use Learning Suite to post assignments and grades.

Office Hours

I will hold office hours on Mondays and Wednesdays 3-4 p.m. I am also available at other times if you make arrangements with me. I encourage you to come by to talk about assignments in the class, suggestions for improving the class, politics and current events, the perils of student life, or for any other reason.


I expect that students will have a working knowledge of politics and basic political science, and know how to organize and write. This can easily be fulfilled by taking the department core courses (Political Science 110, 150, 170, 200).

Learning Outcomes

This course is an introduction to game theory, concentrating on applications in politics. Game theory is the formal method of examining interdependent decisions. An interdependent decision is one where what you do will depend on what someone else does. For example, a politician running for office may consider how voters will react to an issue stance. The leader of a country may consider how other countries will react to an invasion of another country. A citizen may consider how a government will react if the citizen protests (peacefully or not).

Game theory provides tools for evaluating these situations. By the end of the course, you should be able to:

This will be useful for your studies in other classes and for interactions after you graduate.

As a result of its recent accreditation experience (and increasing emphasis from the Department of Education to measure educational outcomes, e.g. NCLB), each program at BYU has developed a set of expected student learning outcomes. These will help you understand the objectives of the curriculum in the program, including this class. In the parlance of the Political Science department's learning outcomes, this course helps you develop the skills of:


With a small class size, we will run the course as a seminar. Students will all have the opportunity/obligation to present their answers to various problems to the rest of class. You should read the material to be presented prior to the class. You should anticipate that I will call on you to contribute your opinion.

I actively encourage questions, interruptions, cries for help, protests of disbelief, etc. You will never be penalized for participating--even when this takes the form of vague complaints like, "I've got no clue why we are reading this stuff!" I urge--indeed, I expect--you to take advantage of the chance to talk with me during office hours.


A Chinese proverb (supposedly) says, "I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand." This philosophy drives the requirements of the class.

Problem Sets 35%
Application Poster 15%
Midterm Exam


Final Exam 35%

Problem Sets

To understand game theory, you must use game theory. We will have weekly problem sets to practice using game theory.

All problem sets are due at the beginning of class on the day designated in the course schedule. If you cannot make it to class, please turn in the problem set to the Political Science dropbox (outside the Political Science office--745 SWKT) before class begins. Alternatively, you may email me the problem set. I will not accept late problem sets. The primary reason for no late problem sets is so that we can discuss the problem set in class immediately after it is turned in. If you anticipate a problem with submitting an problem set when it is due, speak to me before the problem set is due so that we can try to work out an alternative arrangement.

On the days that problem sets are due, we will spend the first part of class going over the problem set. I will choose a student to go to the board and present their solution to a problem. To facilitate this, I suggest that you make a copy of your problem set before you turn it in. (This is a good habit for any class.)

You may work together on these problem sets (in groups of two or at most three), but you must write up your answers separately. I give much more detailed instructions on how to report your work together in the Academic Honesty section below. Generally, if you use other persons' work, or make changes to your own work without inquiring or understanding what you did incorrectly, then you are trying to get a grade using someone else's knowledge. Giving or receiving answers in this manner is not permitted in this course. If you do not learn how to analyze or solve problems on your own, you will have difficulty on the exams.

Problem sets will be due on Tuesdays. The problem sets will be posted on Learning Suite. I strongly suggest that you start working early on the problem sets.

Application Poster

(I have taken this idea from Harrington and modified it.) For the project, you are to use game theory to model and make predictive statements about the behavior of people for either a real-world, historical, or fictional political situation. A real-world political situation is one that routinely occurs in politics. A fictional political situation may be drawn from a story, poem, play, television show, movie, or computer software program but it is not to be a product of your imagination. Your imagination may be used to model a situation but not in creating the situation. Most critically, the situation cannot be one that we have gone over in class. The project is meant to be original work and will be graded on: i) how creative, sophisticated, and accurate is your model; and ii) how compelling, insightful, and correct is your analysis.

Instead of presenting your work as a research paper, you will present it as a research poster at the Mary Lou Fulton Conference. Details can be found here. The submission deadline is March 30 at 12 noon.


There will be one midterm exam taken in class during the term that covers about 7 weeks' material, and a final examination that will be comprehensive. The final exam will be administered on Friday, April 17 in our classroom from 7 - 10 a.m. (as noted on the final exam schedule). Do not ask to take the final examination early. It is against university policy to give final examinations outside of the scheduled time. You should not make any plans that interfere with the final exam schedule. Please do not ask for exceptions. I am not authorized to grant them.

You may use calculators (but not other electronic devices) for the exams. You may not use notes (yours or others'), texts, or other students' exams. The exams will consist of questions similar to those of the problem sets.

The final exams may be picked up in the Political Science office (745 SWKT) after they are graded.

How to Succeed in this Course

The course is graded on a modified curve, using principles that will be explained in more detail in the course. The basic idea is that I will look for natural breaks between students and assign grades accordingly. Thus, I do not assign a set number or percentage of As, Bs, and Cs.

Unlike many other classes at BYU, the points you receive do not correspond to percentage of the material learned, or to particular letter grades. In other words, a 75 (out of 100) does not mean that you understand 75% of the material, nor does it mean you have a C. It means you scored higher than anyone that received a 74 or lower, and scored lower than anyone that received a 76 or higher.

I include the following information from the BYU 2014-2015 Undergraduate Catalog, which guides how I grade and determine workload:

"The grade given in a course is the teacher's evaluation of the student's performance, achievement, and understanding in that subject as covered in the class. The following adjectives indicate the meaning of the letter grades:
A Excellent
B Good
C Satisfactory
D Minimum passing
E Unacceptable
"Hence, the grade A means that the student's performance, achievement, and understanding were excellent in the portion of the subject covered in the class.
"There are prerequisites that qualify students to be admitted to the more advanced classes offered by a department. A senior has added experience, understanding, and preparation and, consequently, progresses in courses that would have been impossible when the student was a freshman. The level of performance, achievement, and understanding required to qualify for each grade that carries credit (any grade other than E, UW, I, IE, or WE) is higher in a more advanced class than in those classes that precede it, and the student is prepared to work at this higher level" (cite).
"The expectation for undergraduate courses is three hours of work per week per credit hour for the average student who is appropriately prepared; much more time may be required to achieve excellence" (cite).

Students who succeed in this course have the following characteristics. They

Academic Honesty and Plagiarism

From the Academic Honesty section of the BYU Honor Code: "The first injunction of the BYU Honor Code is the call to `be honest.' Students come to the university not only to improve their minds, gain knowledge, and develop skills that will assist them in their life's work, but also to build character. `President David O. McKay taught that character is the highest aim of education' (The Aims of a BYU Education, p. 6). It is the purpose of the BYU Academic Honesty Policy to assist in fulfilling that aim."

"BYU students should seek to be totally honest in their dealings with others. They should complete their own work and be evaluated based upon that work. They should avoid academic dishonesty and misconduct in all its forms, including but not limited to plagiarism, fabrication or falsification, cheating, and other academic misconduct" (cite). Read the full version here.

A colleague (Mitch Sanders, former professor at Notre Dame) has already explicated these issues specifically for political science. Please read here.

If you write a paper for another course (past or present) that uses the same topic as the project for this course, you need to approve it with me first, and then you must turn in to me a copy of the paper from your other course.

In this class, you need to acknowledge the contributions of others toward your assignments. I have taken the following guidelines from MIT's Unified Engineering class. I have changed and added various words where appropriate:

"The fundamental principle of academic integrity is that you must fairly represent the source of the intellectual content of the work you submit for credit. In the context of [Poli 328], this means that if you consult other sources (such as fellow students, TA's, faculty, literature) in the process of completing homework, you must acknowledge the sources in any way that reflects true ownership of the ideas and methods you used."

"Doing homework helps to engage with the concepts and material taught in class on a deeper level. To enhance the learning process we strongly suggest that you first try to solve the problems by yourself and then discuss challenges in groups or in office hours if necessary. Discussion among students and in office hours to digest the material and the homework problems or to prepare for [exams] is considered useful in the educational process. COLLABORATION ON HOMEWORK IS ALLOWED UNLESS OTHERWISE DIRECTED AS LONG AS ALL REFERENCES (BOTH LITERATURE AND PEOPLE) USED ARE NAMED CLEARLY AT THE END OF THE ASSIGNMENT. Word-by-word copies of someone else's solution or parts of a solution handed in for credit will be considered cheating unless there is a reference to the source for any part of the work which was copied verbatim. FAILURE TO CITE OTHER STUDENT'S CONTRIBUTION TO YOUR HOMEWORK SOLUTION WILL BE CONSIDERED CHEATING."

"Study Group Guidelines"

"Study groups are considered an educationally beneficial activity. However, at the end of each problem on which you collaborated with other students you must cite the students and the interaction. The purpose of this is to acknowledge their contribution to your work. Some examples follow:

  1. You discuss concepts, approaches and methods that could be applied to a homework problem before either of you start your written solution. This process is encouraged. You are not required to make a written acknowledgment of this type of interaction.
  2. After working on a problem independently, you compare answers with another student, which confirms your solution. You must acknowledge that the other student's solution was used to check your own. No credit will be lost due to this comparison if the acknowledgment is made.
  3. After working on a problem independently, you compare answers with another student, which alerts you to an error in your own work. You must state at the end of the problem that you corrected your error on the basis of checking answers with the other student. No credit will be lost due to this comparison if the acknowledgment is made, and no direct copying of the correct solution is involved.
  4. You and another student work through a problem together, exchanging ideas as the solution progresses. Each of you must state at the end of the problem that you worked jointly. No credit will be lost due to this cooperation if the acknowledgment is made. [You must still write up your solutions individually, not jointly.]
  5. You copy all or part of a solution from a reference such as a textbook. You must cite the reference. Partial credit will be given, since there is some educational value in reading and understanding the solution. However, this practice is strongly discouraged, and should be used only when you are unable to solve the problem without assistance.
  6. You copy verbatim all or part of a solution from another student. This process is not considered academically dishonest if the acknowledgement is made. However, you will receive no credit for verbatim copying from another student as you have not made any intellectual contribution to the work you are both submitting for credit.


Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination against any participant in an educational program or activity that receives federal funds. The act is intended to eliminate sex discrimination in education. Title IX covers discrimination in programs, admissions, activities, and student to student sexual harassment. BYU's policy against sexual harassment extends not only to employees of the university but to students as well. If you encounter unlawful sexual harassment or gender based discrimination, please talk to your professor; contact the Equal Employment Office at 422-5895 or 367-5689 (24 hours); or contact the Honor Code Office at 422-2847.

Brigham Young University is committed to providing a working and learning atmosphere which reasonably accommodates qualified persons with disabilities. If you have any disability which may impair your ability to complete this course successfully, please contact the University Accessibility Center (2170 WSC, 422-2767). Reasonable academic accommodations are reviewed for all students who have qualified documented disabilities. Services are coordinated with the student and instructor by the SSD office. If you need assistance or if you feel you have been unlawfully discriminated against on the basis of disability, you may seek resolution through established grievance policy and procedures. You should contact the Equal Employment Office at 422-5895, D-282 ASB.


All readings should be read before class for full understanding of the subject material.

The text for the course is:

We will cover about one chapter per week of Harrington.

Schedule (subject to change)

Date Topic Chapter Assignments
January 6 Models 1-2  
8 Strategic Form 3 Problem Set 0
13 Dominance 3 Problem Set 1
15 Nash Equilibria 4  
20 3-player Games 4 Problem Set 2
22 n-player Games 5  
27 Asymmetric Games 5 Problem Set 3
29 Mixed Strategies 7  
February 3 Mixed Strategies 7 Problem Set 4
5 Mixed Strategies 7  
10 Extensive Form 8 Problem Set 5
12 Backwards Induction 8  
17 No class: Monday instruction    
19 Review   Problem Set 6
24     Midterm Exam
26 Imperfect Information 9  
March 3 Incomplete Information 10 Problem Set 7
5 Bayesian Games 10  
10 Signaling 11 Problem Set 8
12 Costly Signaling 11  
17 Signaling Equilibria 11 Problem Set 9
19 Cheap Talk 12  
24 Costless Signaling 12 Problem Set 10
26 Repeated Games 13  
31 Repeated Games Applications 14 Poster Due
April 2 Overlapping Generations 15  
7 Large Populations 15 Problem Set 11
9 Fulton Conference    
14 Review   Problem Set 12
15-16 Exam Preparation Days    
17     Final Exam


I often use video clips from popular culture (television programs, movies) to illustrate and emphasize the readings. In this class, I especially use clips from movies. If you consider this to be inappropriate, then do not take this class.


I consulted numerous game theory syllabi in designing this course, including syllabi by Scott Ainsworth, Paulo Barelli, Kathleen Bawn, Giacomo Bonanno, Randy Calvert, Vincent Crawford, Eric Dickson, James Fowler, Scott Gelbach, Catherine Hafer, Macartan Humphreys, Tasos Kalandrakis, Kristin Kanthak, Barry O'Neill, Ahmer Tarar, and Daniel Verdier.

Jay Goodliffe's home page

This page is http://goodliffe.byu.edu/304/syllabus.htm