Taking-Turns Economics

I was on a radio show last week talking about Spousonomics and the host opened the line to callers. Most asked questions, but one woman shared a system her daughter and son-in-law devised that I thought was pretty genius. It’s called taking turns.

The caller explained that both her daughter and son-in-law worked, which meant by the time Friday rolled around, they were wiped out and often without any plans for the weekend. So they’d try to make them on the fly. Which wasn’t so effective. If the wife wanted to go out, the husband might complain that he needed down time. If the husband wanted to get together with his buddies, his wife would point out they hadn’t been on a date in ages. And neither wanted to be the villain and propose housework on a beautiful Saturday morning.

So they divided the weekend, or took turns. On Saturdays, she planned the day (think sort spring clothes and go for a bike ride). If her husband didn’t like it, he could re-balance the next day (breakfast burritos in bed, early afternoon beer pong).

These people, whoever they are, are effectively playing a game economists would call tit for tat. This is what’s know as a mirroring strategy, where each one does the same thing the other one does. A “cooperative” tit for tat is great. The risk comes only if someone defects, and since tit for tat is a mirroring strategy, it means the other will defect, too. Imagine a situation where she says no to beer pong. Then he’s going to say no to spring cleaning. Suddenly, they’re engaged in an “uncooperative” game.

But we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say for now, they’re Spousonomical stars in our book.

Posted in game theory

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