Nash Equilibrium
Christopher Makler
Stanford University Department of Economics
Econ 51: Lecture 4

Part I: Pure strategies with discrete actions

Part II: Pure strategies with continuous actions

Part III: Mixed strategies
Today's Agenda
Best Response: From Last Time
In plain English: given my beliefs about what the other player(s) are doing, a strategy is my "best response"
if there is no other strategy available to me
that would give me a higher payoff.
Best Response under Strategic Certainty
In plain English: given the strategies chosen by the other player(s),
a strategy is my "best response"
if there is no other strategy available to me
that would give me a higher payoff.
Possible rationales for strategic certainty:
 People play this game all the time, and reasonably expect
the other player to play according to the equilibrium.  The players have agreed on a strategy before the game is played;
as long as no one has an incentive to deviate, it's OK.  An outside mediator (society, the law) recommends a strategy profile
Stag Hunt Game
1
2
Stag
Hare
Stag
Hare
5
5
,
4
0
,
4
4
,
0
4
,
Equilibrium
Definition: Best Response (Nash) Equilibrium
In plain English: in a Nash Equilibrium, every player is playing a best response to the strategies played by the other players.
In other words: there is no profitable unilateral deviation
given the other players' equilibrium strategies.
I. Discrete Pure Strategies
1
2
1
2
,
4
3
,
1
4
,
1
1
,
Top
Middle
Left
Center
Bottom
Right
3
0
,
2
1
,
3
2
,
8
0
,
8
0
,
Nash equilibrium occurs when every player is choosing strategy which is a
best response to the strategies chosen by the other player(s)
Coordination Game
1
2
Opera
Movie
Opera
Movie
2
1
,
0
0
,
1
2
,
0
0
,
pollev.com/chrismakler
Pareto Coordination
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A
B
A
B
2
2
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0
0
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1
1
,
0
0
,
pollev.com/chrismakler
II. Continuous Strategies
When the benefits of a good accrue to everyone,
everyone has an incentive to shirk their contribution
Free Rider Problem
Two people, 1 and 2, can contribute to a public good. Each has income \(m = 12\).
Write payoffs in terms of strategies:
Write payoffs in terms of strategies:
1
2
0
1
0
1
0
0
,
11
12
,
22
22
,
12
11
,
We could start to write out a payoff matrix...
Write payoffs in terms of strategies:
We could start to write out a payoff matrix...
but the strategy space is continuous so we could never list out every possible (real number) contribution.
Instead, let's think about a best response function
What is player 1's best response to player 2 choosing to contribute some amount \(g_2\)?
Write payoffs in terms of strategies:
Solve for each player's best response function
What is player 1's best response to player 2 choosing to contribute some amount \(g_2\)?
To maximize give the other's strategy, take the derivative of your payoff function
with respect to your own strategy and set it equal to zero:
BEST RESPONSE FUNCTIONS
BEST RESPONSE FUNCTIONS
In a Nash equilibrium, each player is choosing a strategy which is a best response to the other's strategy.
To solve, plug one's BR into the other:
BEST RESPONSE FUNCTIONS
In a Nash equilibrium, each player is choosing a strategy which is a best response to the other's strategy.
To solve, plug one's BR into the other:
Could they both do better?
What would a social planner do?
III. Mixed Strategies
Matching Pennies I: Coordination Game
1
2
Heads
Tails
Heads
Tails
1
1
,
1
1
,
1
1
,
1
1
,
Each player chooses Heads or Tails.
If they choose the same thing,
they both "win" (get a payoff of 1).
If they choose differently,
they both "lose" (get a payoff of 1).
Circle best responses.
What are the Nash equilibria of this game?
Matching Pennies II: ZeroSum Game
1
2
Heads
Tails
Heads
Tails
1
1
,
1
1
,
1
1
,
1
1
,
Each player chooses Heads or Tails.
If they choose the same thing,
player 1 "wins" (gets a payoff of 1)
and player 2 "loses" (gets a payoff of 1).
If they choose differently,
they player 1 "loses" (gets a payoff of 1)
and player 1 "wins" (gets a payoff of 1).
Circle best responses.
What are the Nash equilibria of this game?
Best Response
If two or more pure strategies are best responses given what the other player is doing, then any mixed strategy which puts probability on those strategies (and no others) is also a best response.
2
\({1 \over 6}\)
\({1 \over 3}\)
\({1 \over 2}\)
\(0\)
Player 2's strategy
\({1 \over 6} \times 6 + {1 \over 3} \times 3 + {1 \over 2} \times 2 + 0 \times 7\)
\(=3\)
\({1 \over 6} \times 12 + {1 \over 3} \times 6 + {1 \over 2} \times 0 + 0 \times 5\)
\(=4\)
\({1 \over 6} \times 6 + {1 \over 3} \times 0 + {1 \over 2} \times 6 + 0 \times 11\)
\(=4\)
Player 1's expected payoffs from each of their strategies
\(X\)
\(A\)
1
\(B\)
\(C\)
\(D\)
\(Y\)
\(Z\)
6
6
,
3
6
,
2
8
,
7
0
,
12
6
,
6
3
,
0
2
,
5
0
,
6
0
,
0
9
,
6
8
,
11
4
,
If player 2 is choosing this strategy, player 1's best response is to play either Y or Z.
Therefore, player 1 could also choose to play any mixed strategy \((0, p, 1p)\).
When is a mixed strategy a best response?
1
2
Heads
Tails
Heads
Tails
1
1
,
1
1
,
1
1
,
1
1
,
Let's return to our zerosum game.
\((p)\)
\((1p)\)
What is player 1's expected payoff from Heads?
Suppose player 2 is playing a mixed strategy: Heads with probability \(p\),
and tails with probability \(1p\).
What is player 1's expected payoff from Tails?
For what value of \(p\) would player 1 be willing to mix?
When is a mixed strategy a best response?
1
2
Heads
Tails
Heads
Tails
1
1
,
1
1
,
1
1
,
1
1
,
\((p)\)
\((1p)\)
For what value of \(p\) would player 1 be willing to mix?
Now suppose player 1 does mix, and plays Heads with probability \(q\) and Tails with probability \(1  q\).
\((q)\)
\((1q)\)
For what value of \(q\) would player 2 be willing to mix?
Equilibrium in Mixed Strategies
A mixed strategy profile is a Nash equilibrium if,
given all players' strategies, each player is mixing among strategies which are their best responses
(i.e. between which they are indifferent)
Important: nobody is trying to make the other player(s) indifferent; it's just that in equilibrium they are indifferent.
Econ 51  10  Nash Equilibrium
By Chris Makler
Econ 51  10  Nash Equilibrium
Nash equilibrium in pure and mixed strategies
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