Politics of Everyday Life

Political Science 491/591

Spring, 2001

Instructor: Mikhail Myagkov, 913 PLC

Hours: MW 1600-1720

Phone x4868, e-mail myagkov@darkwing.uoregon.edu

General Description

We often think that the term "politics" refers mostly to the processes by which collective decisions are made – in particular, by governments. On the other hand this word (politics) can be used more generally to refer to the processes by which we all try to influence each other’s behavior in the normal course of everyday life. This course puts together readings from game theory, evolutionary psychology, decision research and a variety of other disciplines that all, in some way, address such "everyday politics". Some of the materials are analytic – that is, they provide "tools" by which one can address a wide range of specific instances. Other materials are psychological or cognitive – that is, they address attributes of humans as they engage in one another aspect of "everyday politics". Finally, a part of this class will be devoted to learning about laboratory experiments design. Students will have an opportunity to design their own laboratory experiment to study a problem of their choice.


There will be a midterm exam (worth 50%) and either a second midterm exam (during the 10th week) or preparation of your own laboratory experiment on a problem of your choice (50%). The midterms will be in essay answer format. A week before the exam, I will circulate a list of study questions; at the time of the exam, I will select three questions and you should write on two.

Instead of taking the second midterm you can opt to prepare and run a laboratory experiment. The experiment should have a clear goal of what you want to study, instructions for subjects and methods of data analysis. Experiments will take place in late afternoons, so that it does not conflict with other classes. Subjects for the experiments will be recruited for you. You are allowed to do the experimental design in groups of no more than 3 persons.

Your experimental design will be graded the same way the exams are graded. There will be a limit of 6 experiments in this class.

Practical Topics (tools):

Theory of Games; Experimental Design


Theoretical Topics:

  1. Cooperation and (Self)Commitment

Readings: John Elster, "Rational Choice" and "Myopia and Foresight" from the Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences

2. Deception and Choosing Partners

Readings: Robert Trives, "Deceit and self-deception" from the Social Evolution

Cosmides and Tooby, "Cognitive adaptations for social exchange" from The Adapted Mind, pp163-184

Orbell and Dawes, "Social Welfare, Cooperator’s Advantage, and the Option of Not Playing the Game" from the American Sociological Review

  1. The Inner I: Theory of Mind
  2. Readings: Nicholas Humphrey, "The Inner Eye"

  3. Conflict, Power, Agenda Setting and Trust

Readings: William H. Riker, "The Art of Political Manipulation"

Diego Gambetta, "Trust: Making and Breaking Cooperative Relations"

5. Risk, Risky Decisions, Gains and Losses

Readings: Myagkov and Plott, "Testing the Prospect Theory: Concave vs. Convex preferences" from the American Economic Review

Kahnemann and Tversky, to be announce later. Click here to get the article

  1. Bargaining and Negotiation
  2. Readings: John Elster, " Bargaining" from the Chapter 14 of the "Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences"

    Charles Lave and James March, "An Introduction to Models in the Social Sciences" from the Chapter 5.5 of the "External Exchange"

  3. Sex, Gender and All That
  4. Readings: Mattew Mulfold , John Orbell and al. "Physical Attractiveness, Opportunity and Success in Everyday Exchange"

    John Orbell and Robert Dawes, "Trust, Social Categories and Individuals" from the "Motivation and Emotion"

  5. Micro Choices and Macro Outcomes
  6. Readings: John Orbell, Langsche Zeng and Mattew Mulfold, "Individual Experience and Fragmentation of Societies"

    Gerry Mackie, "Ending Footbinding and Infibulation: A Convention Account"

  7. Designing Laboratory Experiments

Readings: Masanao Toda, "Man Robot and Society; Models and Speculations"