Skip main navigation

Why do we end up in a dirty kitchen?

In this video we will consider why Anna and Ben would not clean.
AGATA KOMENDANT-BROWDOWSKA: So, we end up in a dirty kitchen. Do Ben and Anna, as a couple, obtain the best outcome when they both follow their individual preferences? Apparently not, because they end up with a dirty kitchen. And there was another result that was better for each of them within their reach. It was when they both cleaned.
If they had a good talk as a couple, they might have decided to clean up together, and each of them would have obtained a higher outcome. Namely, three points each. So, with only two points each they end up in a worse situation. Is there something wrong with them? No. They behave reasonably. From their individual point of view, there is no reason to clean. When the other one does, they are tempted to cheat. When the other one doesn’t, they don’t want to be a sucker. So, it’s not them who are wrong, it’s the structure of the situation that is paradoxical. They are led, by the situation, by the motivational structure they are in, to a trap.
And it’s difficult to escape from that. Sometimes when people aim at getting what is best for them it just doesn’t work. Cleaning a kitchen may seem a rather trivial issue, however many problems dealing with the management of shared resources look like this kitchen problem. They often deal with a conflict between individual interests and shared outcomes. Sometimes people end up in a bad situation, and sometimes they succeed in finding solutions for collaborating and share better outcomes. In the next step, we’ll explore it in more detail.

In this video we will observe the result of the situation, namely a dirty kitchen and see why Anna and Ben end up in such a situation.

We will pay attention to the fact that there was a better outcome of the situation within their reach. In the next steps we will investigate it in more detail and see how we can depict similar situations in a way shown in the video.

First, we will be concentrating on how a certain situation is perceived from an individual point of view and how we can depict someone’s attitude towards a situation depending on other people’s behaviour.

This article is from the free online

Understanding Human Behaviour: Introduction to Game Theory and Shared Resources

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education