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The legacy of a master strategist

Click here for my article in The Conversation.


Thomas Schelling (1921 – 2016)


My coordination game answers:

  1. Name a mountain: Mount Everest
  2. Name a flower: The rose
  3. Name a place to meet in London: Big Ben.
  4. Name one side of a Dollar coin: Heads.

Other coordination games Schelling experimented with include the following (taken from Schelling 1960, p. 55-56):

  1. Circle one of the numbers in the line below. You win if you all succeed in circling the same number.
    7     100     13     231     99     55

2. Put a check mark in one of the sixteen squares. You win if you all succeed in checking the same square:

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3. Write some positive number. If you all write the same number, you win.

4. Name an amount of money. If you all name the same amount, you can have as much as you named.

5. You and another person parachuted unexpectly into the area shown, each with a map and knowing the other has one, but neither knowing where the other has dropped nor able to communicate. Where do you meet?

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Most common answers: 1: 7 (the first) or 100. 2: top left. 3:1. 4: One million. 5: At the bridge.


Further reading


Call for Papers: Behavioral Business Research and its Stakeholders

Special Issue in the Journal of Behavioral Economics for Policy

Guest Editors:

Submission deadline: May 1, 2017

Traditional research in economics and the other social sciences is sometimes criticized for questionable relevance to business and public policy, inability to prepare students for work or responsible citizenship, and as stymied by internal disciplinary divisions. Behavioral approaches have been touted as a way forward by unifying the social sciences based on the empirical facts of evolved human psychology that are relevant to the concerns of diverse stakeholders.

Business schools can nurture this process as forums where researchers from different disciplines, practitioners and students interact. However, misaligned incentives and differences in scientific conventions, epistemology and methods impede the emergence of a behavioral business discipline from economics, psychology and management.

This Special Issue is devoted to the case for, prospects and challenges of a unified behavioral business research that has public policy implications and/or enhances the skills of policy makers. Within this framework, topics of interest include discussions of whether and how behavioral approaches can be help to (1) integrate the social sciences which enhances public policy, (2) bridge the gap to business and public policy audiences, and (3) better serve students and their future employers.


We welcome submissions from researchers but also research stakeholders from the public, business and teaching arenas. Full papers submission should adhere to the Journal’s 3500 word limit but shorter, insightful comments are also invited.

Please use JBEP’s online submission system using “SI: Behavioural Business” as article type. Information for authors including author guidelines which also apply to the Special Issue can be found on the journal website. All submissions will be subject to standard refereeing.

Herbert Simon 100 today: the eyes have it

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One of my greatest acdemic heroes, the polymath Herbert Simon, would have been 100 today. In addition to his transformational contributions to economics, psychology, computer science and organisation theory, you can find rare gems in his autobiography. Here’s one of my favourites:

“As [Jacob Marschak] had assembled a spectacular group of stars in the Cowles Commission, I asked him what qualities he looked for in selecting staff. “Oh,” said he, “I pick people with good eyes.” I stared at him. Good eyes, what could he mean? I told him he was joking, but he insisted: He looked at their eyes.” And then I began thinking of the clear dark Armenian eyes of Arrow, the cool blue Frisian eyes of Koopmans, and the sharp black Roman eyes of Modigliani. It was certainly true that they all had remarkable eyes. Ever since, I think I have included that among my own selection criteria; intelligence shines through the eyes.”


Teaching religion in schools

Religion can make you a better person, fundamentalism can be damaging (The Guardian)

Interesting opinion piece where The Guardian’s Andrew Brown says of our experiment,

“on this basis, the authors conclude that religion should not be `imposed’ in schools. I don’t see why, since the other headline finding is that while religion and shared ethnicity increase generosity and trust within their `ingroups’, they don’t actually increase discrimination towards `outgroups’.”

We found that when two subjects know each other to be of a different ethnicity and religion it does not lower the level of cooperation between them (compared to interactions between people who do not know anything about each others’ religious or ethnic identity). But known similarity between them raises cooperation.

However, it should be pointed out that the issue about teaching religion in schools is not so much a conclusion from the results of our research but one possible policy implication one could draw. If one wanted to study the effect of religious instruction, a different type of experiment would have to be conducted. What is true is that in our study (a) we find that aspects of religiosity enhance the discrimination against people of other religious belongings, and (b) that religiosity as such does not make people more social in general contexts. This has relevance to the debate about religious instruction, but I leave it to experts in this area to draw their own conclusions.