Alliance Formation and Divided Loyalties

23 Pages Posted: 8 May 2023

See all articles by Erik O. Kimbrough

Erik O. Kimbrough

Chapman University - The George L. Argyros College of Business and Economics; Chapman University - Smith Institute for Political Economy and Philosophy

Peter DeScioli

Chapman University Economic Science Institute

Date Written: April 25, 2023

Abstract

Group conflicts often break out in which individuals have to choose who to support. Having more supporters tends to increase one's chances of success in conflict, so everyone would prefer to have more supporters. But support is scarce, and sometimes conflicts can arise between two people who previously were on the same side. How do people take sides then? What are the dynamics of these processes? We investigate how people choose sides in disputes by developing a side-taking game in which two disputants fight over a resource and other group members choose sides. Conflicts can occur at any time between any two individuals. Players rank their loyalties to all other group members, and they automatically side with the disputant they previously ranked higher. We begin studying the strategic properties of the side-taking game via formal model and simulation. In the model, players' loyalties are unstable: a subset of players can always gain by strengthening their loyalties to each other while weakening their loyalties to others. In the simulation, if players follow an alliance heuristic -- ranking others according to how others rank them -- loyalty rankings converge to a stable structure. Moreover, these stable loyalties tend to equalize payoffs and minimize power differences in fights. The resulting balance of power could lead to costly, escalated fighting.

Keywords: conflict, alliances, networks, simulation

JEL Classification: C91, C92, D03

Suggested Citation

Kimbrough, Erik O. and DeScioli, Peter, Alliance Formation and Divided Loyalties (April 25, 2023). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4429685 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4429685

Erik O. Kimbrough (Contact Author)

Chapman University - The George L. Argyros College of Business and Economics ( email )

One University Dr
Orange, CA 92866
United States

Chapman University - Smith Institute for Political Economy and Philosophy ( email )

One University Drive
Orange, CA 92866
United States

Peter DeScioli

Chapman University Economic Science Institute ( email )

1 University Drive
Orange, CA 92866
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
45
Abstract Views
239
PlumX Metrics