A theory of intraperson games

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18 Scopus citations


A wide variety of theories across disciplines posit the existence of multiple inner preferences (selves, drives, or agents) within each person, whose conflicts must be resolved for a person to reach a decision. Despite their strong validity, these theories have not been incorporated into mainstream management science literature because of their qualitative nature. In this article, the author proposes a theory of intraperson games (TIG) to fill this important gap. Building on social welfare literature and standard (multiperson) game theory, the TIG defines two types of intraperson players, and each has a unique strategy set. The first type, the efficiency agent, attempts to maximize the total utility for the entire set of selves that reside in a person's mind. The second type, the equity agent, strives to balance the utilities that each of these selves receives. The TIG states that an individual decision is the outcome of the strategic interaction between the efficiency agent and the equity agent. Thus, standard consumer utility theory is a special case of the TIG if the role of the equity agent is ignored. A mathematical apparatus is provided for the TIG and is defined in a way similar to standard (multiperson) game theory. As a general quantitative theory, the TIG can be applied to many different contexts across disciplines, including, but not limited to, management science. The author demonstrates one such application for variety-seeking behavior and shows that stochastic variety seeking is a mixed-strategy equilibrium in an intraperson game. Key theoretical insights from this applied model are subsequently validated in an empirical study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Marketing
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Marketing


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