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Understanding Human Behaviour: Introduction to Game Theory and Shared Resources

Explore the issues humans face when sharing and cooperating, and use game theory, models, and simulations to identify solutions.

799 enrolled on this course

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Understanding Human Behaviour: Introduction to Game Theory and Shared Resources

799 enrolled on this course

  • 4 weeks

  • 3 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Introductory level

Find out more about how to join this course

  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours
  • 100% online

    How it works
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    $244.99 for one whole yearLearn more

​​Expand your understanding of social sciences

This four-week course will help you explore why sharing goods or tasks is difficult. You’ll enrich your understanding of the problems people have when they share and cooperate, and examine essential models that can support you in your future career in social sciences and beyond.

Discover social solutions to help tackle different problems

You’ll have a close-up look at situations when actions (that are rational from an individual point of view) lead to non-optimal social outcomes.

Investigating the mechanisms that underlie the common action and public goods problems, you’ll gain an insight into the behavioural dynamics affecting the ecological crisis we currently face.

You’ll also explore some social solutions to tackle such problems and reflect on the importance of strengthening social ties, norms, social control, sanctions, and institutions.

Understand how to use computational modelling to face challenges

You’ll explore social computation and computational modelling as a useful methodology. With this knowledge, you’ll systematically study the interactions between individual behaviour, group behaviour, and public goods.

Apply game theory and agent-based modelling (ABM) - without prior mathematical or programming skills

You’ll apply the basic concepts from game theory to explain some of the mechanisms behind the overuse of natural resources. This will then help you explore some potential solutions going forward.

Throughout the course, you will use examples, animations, and game-like tools, designed by the experts from University of Warsaw and University of Groningen – no mathematical and programming skills are required!

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Skip to 0 minutes and 4 seconds When we share something with others, we often encounter problems. When too many people stream videos using a public Wi-Fi, all may suffer from a very bad connection. When we all think it is easier to go by car, everyone will get stuck in traffic. When we keep relying on plastic containers, we all suffer from plastic pollution. How can it be that when we choose what’s best for us, it’s often worse for the common good? And how can we actually protect common goods, such as ecosystems and cooperate better? Within this four-week course, you will explore various problems related to shared resources with the help of different models that illustrate what happens when individual motivations lead to non-optimal social results.

Skip to 1 minute and 0 seconds Throughout the course, you will meet Anna and Ben who struggle to keep their kitchen clean, investigate a story about farmers who struggle and often succeed in preserving their common grazing land, discuss the problem of free riding, and experiment with a group of fishermen who try to use a lake in a sustainable manner. To help you deal with such problems, you will be using a set of simple tools, models, and simulations that are typical for computational social science. It will be a chance to explore the basics of game theory and agent-based models.

Skip to 1 minute and 38 seconds Especially for you and together with an international team of experts, we designed the course in such a way that you don’t need any mathematical or programming skills for that. The world around us is full of challenges related to sharing and cooperating. If you want to better understand those problems and come up with some new solutions, join us.


  • Week 1

    The challenges of cooperation

    • Welcome to Understanding Human Behaviour: Introduction to Game Theory and Shared Resources!

      Get to know the educator team, introduce yourself, and learn a bit about what to expect in the course.

    • From a dirty kitchen to individual rationality

      We will look at an individual point of view and discuss how such an individual perspective can be represented when we are dealing with interpersonal situations.

    • What will happen if everybody follows their best choices?

      In this activity you’ll investigate some simple situations mainly involving 2 persons and how it is not so obvious to predict what will happen in such situations. We will also introduce the concept of an equilibrium.

    • Game Theory and the Prisoner’s Dilemma

      In this activity we will describe what Game Theory is and we will have a look at the most famous game called the Prisoner’s Dilemma.

    • What is socially rational and why is dirty kitchen a problem?

      In this activity we will have a closer look at the concept of social rationality. We will investigate how we can judge what is less or more socially rational and introduce the concept of optimal and non-optimal outcomes.

    • Dirty kitchen, shared resources and game theory

      In this activity we will summarise what our kitchen story tells us about problems with shared resources and we will relate the elements of this situation to main concepts and terms from game theory.

    • Wrap up fo Week 1

      This activity wraps up Week 1.

  • Week 2

    Free riders and the Tragedy of the Commons

    • A crowded kitchen is a dirty kitchen

      In this activity we will investigate what happens when there are more people in the kitchen and we will introduce the concept of a Multi-Person Prisoner’s Dilemma.

    • Introducing free riders

      We will investigate a problem that is typical for situations when people can use a certain good without contributing to its production or maintenance, in short: free riding.

    • Multi-person games

      In this activity we will explore a game-theoretical approach to situations that involve a larger number of people, especially situations of either-or choices.

    • How will they all end up?

      In this activity we closely examine different situations of either-or choices and see what outcomes of these situations we could expect. We will be looking for equilibria of multi-person games.

    • Tragedy of the commons

      In this activity we will investigate the Tragedy of the Commons, the most famous story related to the problem of shared resources and an example of a Multi-Person Prisoner’s Dilemma.

    • Wrap up of Week 2

      This activity wraps up Week 2.

  • Week 3

    Problems with renewable goods

    • Common resources

      This week we will talk more about common resources. We will use examples of fish and cows and see how these problems can be analysed using social simulations.

    • Fishing experiment

      In this activity we introduce fishing as an example in explaining socio-ecological dynamics.

    • Experimenting with the fishing model

      We are going to experiment some more with the fishing model.

    • Externalities

      In these steps we introduce the concept of externalities and link it to the problem of common resources.

    • Wrap up of Week 3

      This activity wraps up Week 3.

  • Week 4

    How to succeed in managing ecological resources

    • Introducing norms and sanctions

      In this activity we discuss some social control mechanisms that help deal with challenges related to the use of shared goods.

    • How to preserve common resources and public goods?

      In this activity we will have a look at Elinor Ostrom’s work on managing shared goods and see what types of solutions that prevent the overuse of common resources work better than others.

    • Experimenting with policies

      In this activity you will investigate how fishermen can preserve the fish stock from collapsing and you will also try out how social simulations can help analyse different policies.

    • Preserving the fish stock

      In this activity you will investigate how fishermen can preserve the fish stock from collapsing and you try out different policies taking into account some more realistic assumptions about fishermen’s behaviour.

    • Wrap up of the course

      In this final activity we wrap up the course.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

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Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Discuss the problem of conflict between individual and collective rationality using examples.
  • Apply the basic concepts from game theory to explain some of the mechanisms leading to the ecological crisis and its potential solutions.
  • Solve simple games using basic game theoretical tools.
  • Experiment with a simple agent-based model by changing the properties of the existing components.
  • Identify the opportunities computational models and simulations offer to help study complicated social processes.
  • Evaluate possible solutions to problems related to public goods with the help of computational modelling.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone interested in understanding human behaviour, especially when sharing and cooperation are involved.

It will be particularly useful for professionals dealing with challenges related to public goods, common resources, and cooperation.

If you are studying social sciences and are curious how a computational approach works, this course will be particularly helpful. If you are an academic teacher with no prior experience with this approach yet and you’re considering enriching your own courses, we encourage you to take the course, and use the materials for your students.

What software or tools do you need?

For the models used in the course we highly recommend that these are done on a large screen, either a PC, laptop or a tablet at least, as the models will not be easy to operate on a phone.

Who will you learn with?

I'm a sociologist at the University of Warsaw, passionate about using models and simulations to study social processes. I'm leading the project Action for Computational Thinking in Social Sciences.

I'm a social scientist working at the University College Groningen. I'm interested in societal dynamics on land & seascapes, energy, food, migration, organisation, health and more.

I love translating difficult things into easy and understandable ones. I'm leading the Digital Sociology masters programme at the University of Warsaw.

I'm a social scientist working at the University of Warsaw. I enjoy understanding what is happening and how. Hence my interest in formal modelling. Also, I do research on Human-Technology Interaction.

Who developed the course?

University of Groningen

The University of Groningen is a research university with a global outlook, deeply rooted in Groningen, in the north of the Netherlands.

University of Warsaw

University of Warsaw is the leading research university and the largest higher education institution in Poland, with a comprehensive portfolio of research and teaching activities.

Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society

The Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society is exploring digitalisation together with economic, political and civil society stakeholders.


Action for Computational Thinking in Social Sciences (ACTISS) is an Erasmus+ project aimed to develop engaging and accessible online courses introducing the basics of computational social sciences.

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Develop skills to further your career

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  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Buy this course

$134/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 20 Mar 2024

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

Sale price available until 4 March 2024 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply.

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Sale price available until 4 March 2024 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply.

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