This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Applying Game Theory to Presidential Mistakes




Wishnietsky, Anida

Type of Degree



Political Science


Game theory, based on the rational actor model (RAM), is a decision making theory that is useful for predicting economic decisions but is not reliable for predicting political decisions. Game theory might work better if a utility function could be accurately determined and applied to the players of the game. Three other decision making models (organizational behavior model (OBM), governmental politics model (GPM), elitist actor model (EAM)) are used to develop the utility function to better utilize game theory to explain and predict decisions. Four major presidential mistakes (Kennedy’s Bay of Pigs, Johnson’s escalation of Vietnam, Nixon’s Watergate, and Clinton’s Lewinsky scandal) were used to test the theory. The results demonstrate the usefulness of this method to explain, but not predict political decisions.