Staying power in sequential games

Steven J. Brams, Marek P. Hessel

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Staying power is the ability of a player to hold off choosing a strategy in a two-person game until the other player has selected his, after which the players are assumed to be able to move and countermove sequentially to ensure their best possible outcomes before the process cycles back to the initial outcome and then repeats itself ('rational termination'). These rules of sequential play induce a determinate, Paretosuperior outcome in all two-person, finite, sequential games in which the preferences of the players are strict. In 57 of the 78 distinct 2 × 2 ordinal games (73 percent), it makes no difference who the (second-moving) player with staying power is, but in the other 21 games the outcome is power-dependent. In all but one of these games, staying power benefits the player who possesses it. If no player has staying power, the outcomes that result from sequential play and rational termination are called terminal; they coincide with staying power outcomes if they are Pareto-superior. Normative implications of the analysis for rationally justifying cooperation in such games as Prisoners' Dilemma and Chicken, and implementing Pareto-superior outcomes generally, are also discussed.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)279-302
    Number of pages24
    JournalTheory and Decision
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Sep 1983

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Decision Sciences
    • Developmental and Educational Psychology
    • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
    • General Economics, Econometrics and Finance
    • Applied Psychology
    • Computer Science Applications
    • General Social Sciences


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