Faculty of Law

Undergraduate - Unit

This unit entry is for students who completed this unit in 2014 only. For students planning to study the unit, please refer to the unit indexes in the the current edition of the Handbook. If you have any queries contact the managing faculty for your course or area of study.

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6 points, SCA Band 3, 0.125 EFTSL

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered, or view unit timetables.

FacultyFaculty of Law
OfferedPrato Term 2 2014 (Day)


Game theory is a contemporary theory of rational decision making.

In this unit students will examine the following applications of game theory to law:

Differences between legal systems regarding judges and jury, and how these influence the type of reasoning to be expected (appointed compared with elected judges; judges as decision-makers compared with administrators of jury decisions; single decision-makers compared with panels);

regulation-intensive systems compared with judicial determination;

interactions between spheres of government and separation of powers;

voting rules and methods of aggregating preferences;

local compared with national elections;

Federalism compared with unitary government;

the differing role of pre-trial negotiations and judges' intervention therein;

alternative dispute mechanisms and their interaction with judges' role (binding compared with discretionary);

Course material will focus on non-cooperative game theory (where each actor is presumed to be a self-utility-maximizing individual or firm), though some models of cooperative game theory will be presented as well (formation of coalitions among members). Application to legal issues will be discussed, both based on scholarly writings and on students' input as to real-life situations where similar strategic interactions arise (relying both on case law and non-legal everyday experience). Students will be assigned both problem sets (mostly games to participate in) and articles/book chapters to read before each class. Since the course is planned to be intensive time-wise, consideration will be granted as to length of assignments - though they are still key to broadening horizons and facilitating understanding.


Students who successfully complete this unit should develop:

  1. A detailed and critical understanding of game-theoretic concepts as they apply to legal reasoning.
  2. An ability to understand and evaluate competing applications of game-theoretic models in the legal literature.
  3. A new and different outlook on day-to-day experiences and political interactions, based on their similarity to models and games elucidated in classStudents who successfully complete this unit should develop:


Completion of online games prior to and in class, demonstrating the operation of various aspects of game theory, and participation in class discussion about the implications and application of games to the relevant aspect of the syllabus: 5% per class x 12 classes = 60%
Take-home examination of 2,000 words: 40%.

Chief examiner(s)

Workload requirements

This will vary depending upon the demands of Prato and the timetable. Indicative hours would be: 6 hours a week for 6 weeks or 12 hours per week for 3 weeks. The total number of hours contact will remain 36.