# repeated rubber bands game

[From Stefan Balke (04.02.01)]

In the original rubber band task it is easy to see that the idea of just
pulling harder leads to broken rubber bands in a few minutes or seconds.
That´s the reason why people who don`t want to break the rubber bands
stop pulling stronger and stronger and start talking with the other person
about the problem of breaking the rubber bands.

In everyday conflict situations it is mostly not so easy to see that the
object of desire will be serioulsly damaged and/or it is not so easy to see
which party is responsible for this unintended side-effect. So I think about
a rubber band task that comes closer to the everyday situation. What do you
think about a game like this (the numbers are arbitrary):

1.) Every person has to pay 5\$. This are 10\$ together.
2.) The person who is able to win at least 3 of 5 rounds gets this 10\$.
3.) To become the winner of a single game it is necessary to pull the knot
over the target dot x1 or x2.

person knot
person
p1 ----------------------------O---------------------------------- p2
x1 x2
target target

4.) If the own rubber band breaks or if the knot is over the other persons
target
dot the round is lost. If the knot is of the own target dot, the game is
won.
5.) After each round it is possible to make a compromise in the sense to
stop the game and take back the 5\$. To make a compromise it is necessary
that _both_ persons agree. It is also possible to make an agreement like: we
stop now and I get 7\$, the rest is for you.

Optional conditions:
5.) There are 10 rubber bands. The rubber bands are of the same size, but of
different age. The older ones are less stabel. The distribution of the bands
is random. It is impossible to see the age of the rubber bands. 2 of 10
rubber bands are old ones.
6.) The target dots x1 and/or x2 move itself.

Best regards
Stefan

[From Rick Marken (01.02.05.0900)]

Stefan Balke (04.02.01)--

In everyday conflict situations it is mostly not so easy
to see that the object of desire will be serioulsly damaged
and/or it is not so easy to see which party is responsible
for this unintended side-effect.

I don't see how your proposal makes the situation more realistic.
Maybe you could explain it.

I think the basic rubber band conflict is a pretty good analog
of real conflicts. In real conflicts it's often clear to the
parties involved that the "object of desire" (like the knot in
the rubber band demo) cannot be brought to the desired state.
It's also often clear that efforts to bring the "object of desire"
to it's reference state could produce undesired side effects
(like the rubber bands breaking). For example, both parties to
the middle east conflict know why they aren't getting what they
want: it's because they both want the same variable (like who
occupies some building in Jerusalem) in two different states
(controlled by Israelis only or by Palestinians only). They also
know that their efforts to get the building into either state
are having undesirable side effects (people killed, need for
huge defense force, impoverished refugee population, etc.).

So people in conflict often know just as much about the conflict
they are in as the two players in the rubber band conflict know
about the conflict they are in. The people in the middle east
can't solve the conflict -- even though neither side is getting
what they want and trying to do it is producing undesired side-
effects -- because they can't do what one or the other (or both)
of the players in the rubber band game typically _can do_ to avoid
the frustration and unpleasant consequences of that conflict: they
can't go up a level and say "I don't need to play this stupid game".

The solution to the rubber band conflict is simply the realization
that there are other things to do besides trying to keep a knot
on a dot. That's an easy realization to come to because the "knot
on dot" goal is not very important to most people. Also, it's not
very high in one's hierarchy of goals. The solution to the middle east
conflict is the same: it would be the realization that there are other
things to do besides controlling for whether Jews or Arabs control a
particular building. Unfortunately, the "control the building" goal,
when the building is a "sacred site" is very important to the parties
to the conflict and it is apparently very high in everyone's hierarchy.
So even though the parties to the conflict know that the conflict is
producing all kinds of horrible side effects, the goals that these
side effects are affecting -- including even the goal of staying
alive -- are apparently _less important_ than the goal of maintaining
control over a "sacred site".

Best regards

Rick

···

--
Richard S. Marken Phone or Fax: 310 474-0313

[From Stefan Balke (01.02.05)]

Rick Marken (01.02.05.0900)

Stefan Balke (04.02.01)--

> In everyday conflict situations it is mostly not so easy
> to see that the object of desire will be serioulsly damaged
> and/or it is not so easy to see which party is responsible
> for this unintended side-effect.

I don't see how your proposal makes the situation more realistic.
Maybe you could explain it.

Yes, I'll explain the ideas. I also like the original rubber band situation,
because it shows the conflict dynamic in a basic form. It's not my intention
to replace the original demo. But I think that in most everyday conflicts
it's not so easy to escape because the goals involved are more important
(like in your near east example; I thought of the struggle between father,
mother, children after a divorce - have you heard of the case of Boris and
Babs Becker the parents play the rubber band game and the kids are in
the middle). So my idea was to involve a number of different goals with a
higher importance than "not to destroy a rubber band"

1.) Every person has to pay 5\$. This are 10\$ together. (Boris Becker has

over 100 Mio. \$)

The paid money should make the goal not to lose more important.

2.) The person who is able to win at least 3 of 5 rounds gets this 10\$.
6.) There are 10 rubber bands. The rubber bands are of the same size, but

of

different age. The older ones are less stabel. The distribution of the

bands

is random. It is impossible to see the age of the rubber bands. 2 of 10
rubber bands are old ones.

The prize should also make it important to win. In combination with
condition 6.) the higher number of games makes it possible that there are
other influences (the quality of the bands) which are not under personal
control. This could/will lead to a poker behavior. The players will start to
hope for good/better rubber bands in the next game. (there are alway several
sessions at the family court, the press revealed a new baby with another
woman, this is similar to an old rubber band for Boris in this session.)

5.) After each round it is possible to make a compromise in the sense to
stop the game and take back the 5\$. To make a compromise it is necessary
that _both_ persons agree. It is also possible to make an agreement like:

we

stop now and I get 7\$, the rest is for you.

The players are capable of bargaining under the impression of the course of
the last and expected future games. It could be possible to control for "not
loosing all the money" with two different behaviors. It's possible to avoid
an "all or nothing" solution. (Boris and Babs found a out-of-court solution
to divide the money and the rights concerning the children. Boris did this
because it became obvious that he lost the first two rounds on court)

7.) The target dots x1 and/or x2 move itself.

This will lead to unpredictable disturbances for both players. It could
happen that one or the other player comes in advantage from this effect.
(The children, now 1 and 6 years old, become older and have own references,
they start to move.)

A new condition could be that a broken rubber band will lead to a loss of
3\$. This would strengthen the internal conflict "pull harder - don't pull to
hard". (Boris and Babs market value decreases, Babs already lost a campaign
with Coca Cola). At all the situation is more complex and not so easy to
understand if the person is acting ín the game. (Boris is on top of the
german news since weeks. I don't have the impression that he understands his
situation very well. But at least he stated: If the situation will last a
few weeks longer, most germans will say: Boris, shut up. But until now he is
our hero, I hope you have heard of him

Best regards,
Stefan

[From Bill Powers (2001.02.06.0234 MST)]

Stefan Balke (04.02.01)--

In everyday conflict situations it is mostly not so easy to see that the
object of desire will be serioulsly damaged and/or it is not so easy to see
which party is responsible for this unintended side-effect. So I think about
a rubber band task that comes closer to the everyday situation. What do you
think about a game like this (the numbers are arbitrary):

This is an interesting way to simulate a more complex situation than we see
in a simple rubber-band demo. I think you'll have to try it out to refine
it -- for example, finding a supply of "old" rubber bands may be somewhat
difficult, expecially if they're supposed to have different breaking
strengths. When you buy a "new" package of rubber bands at a store, how old
are they?

The important thing is to try out the experiment as soon as you can. People
always manage to do something that you hadn't thought of. I think you've
done enough designing for now; doing an actual experiment is more important
than anticipating every possible problem or outcome. It's good to think
through the details to a reasonable degree, but I think you've reached the
point where you will learn more from experience with real people and real
rubber bands.

Best,

Bill P.

···

1.) Every person has to pay 5\$. This are 10\$ together.
2.) The person who is able to win at least 3 of 5 rounds gets this 10\$.
3.) To become the winner of a single game it is necessary to pull the knot
over the target dot x1 or x2.

person knot
person
p1 ----------------------------O---------------------------------- p2
x1 x2
target target

4.) If the own rubber band breaks or if the knot is over the other persons
target
dot the round is lost. If the knot is of the own target dot, the game is
won.
5.) After each round it is possible to make a compromise in the sense to
stop the game and take back the 5\$. To make a compromise it is necessary
that _both_ persons agree. It is also possible to make an agreement like: we
stop now and I get 7\$, the rest is for you.

Optional conditions:
5.) There are 10 rubber bands. The rubber bands are of the same size, but of
different age. The older ones are less stabel. The distribution of the bands
is random. It is impossible to see the age of the rubber bands. 2 of 10
rubber bands are old ones.
6.) The target dots x1 and/or x2 move itself.

Best regards
Stefan

[From Bill Powers (2001.02.05.0242 MST)]

Rick Marken (01.02.05.0900)-

The solution to the rubber band conflict is simply the realization
that there are other things to do besides trying to keep a knot
on a dot. That's an easy realization to come to because the "knot
on dot" goal is not very important to most people. Also, it's not
very high in one's hierarchy of goals. The solution to the middle east
conflict is the same: it would be the realization that there are other
things to do besides controlling for whether Jews or Arabs control a
particular building. Unfortunately, the "control the building" goal,
when the building is a "sacred site" is very important to the parties
to the conflict and it is apparently very high in everyone's hierarchy.
So even though the parties to the conflict know that the conflict is
producing all kinds of horrible side effects, the goals that these
side effects are affecting -- including even the goal of staying
alive -- are apparently _less important_ than the goal of maintaining
control over a "sacred site".

This needs to be said more publicly. How about trying to write an article
for Atlantic or one of those liberal rags? "A question of human nature," or
something like that, with the object of pointing the way up a level.

It's strange that the sacred sites in Jersulam would probably be totally
demolished in a war between Moslems and Jews. To save them, they would have
to be destroyed. Or, if I can't have her, nobody can. Isn't this madness?

Best,

Bill P.

from Bill Powers (2001.02.06.0234 MST)

The important thing is to try out the experiment as soon as you can.

People

always manage to do something that you hadn't thought of. I think you've
done enough designing for now; doing an actual experiment is more

important

than anticipating every possible problem or outcome. It's good to think
through the details to a reasonable degree, but I think you've reached the
point where you will learn more from experience with real people and real
rubber bands.

Yeah, I´ll do it. I`ll ask my family and friends and then a group of
teachers in the next workshop. I think we will have fun.

Still one afterthought: the original rubber band demo shows a conflict
situation where no one is able to win, the forces are equal and will remain
equal. In this situation it is unrational to maintain the hope of winning.
People with the goal to win must exit. So it's critical to create a
situation where every party sees a chance of winning, otherwise nobody will
start the game.

Best regards,
Stefan

[From Bill Powers (2001.02.07.11:29 MST)]

Stefan Balke (2001.02.06) --

Still one afterthought: the original rubber band demo shows a conflict
situation where no one is able to win, the forces are equal and will remain
equal. In this situation it is unrational to maintain the hope of winning.
People with the goal to win must exit. So it's critical to create a
situation where every party sees a chance of winning, otherwise nobody will
start the game.

Right. But even when people actually have more chance of losing than of
winning, they will still play games of chance. Figure that one out.

Best,

Bill P.

[From Stefan Balke (01.02.07)]

Bill Powers (2001.02.07.11:29 MST)

Right. But even when people actually have more chance of losing than of
winning, they will still play games of chance. Figure that one out.

Yes, like Roulette (18/18/0) or investing at the stock exchange. The
player/investor thinks before the start that the whole money is lost. Then
the chance of losing the game is eliminated because it is already lost. The
money is away. Then there are two possibilities: nothing happens or the game
is won. If nothing happend, the rule is to repeat until the game is won. If
the game is won the rule is to repeat until ... all the money is away.

One important goal within this games is to feel the danger and the kick.
This feeling is paid.

Good luck everybody,
Stefan