A Game-Theoretic Analysis of Male-female Toilet Seat Behavior

Lynne Kiesling

A game-theoretic analysis of one of the most enduring conflicts between men and women: toilet seat up or down? This paper in the Science Creative Quarterly provides a game-theoretic analysis that incorporates the cost of the domestic dissent, specifically, the cost to the male of the yelling that will ensue when the female finds the toilet seat up.

… If a female finds the toilet seat in a wrong position then she will most probably yell at the male involved. This yelling inflicts a cost on the male. Based on this omission, women may argue that the analysis in these papers is suspect.

In this paper, we internalize the cost of yelling and model the conflict as a non-cooperative game between two species, males and females.We find that the social norm of leaving the toilet seat down is inefficient. However, to our dismay, we also find that the social norm of always leaving the toilet seat down after use is not only a Nash equilibrium in pure strategies but is also trembling-hand perfect. So, we can complain all we like, but this norm is not likely to go away.

In addition to being a clever and well-written short piece, this article references an excellent paper by a former NU graduate student: Azar, Ofer H. (2005), “Who Do We Tip and Why? An Empirical Investigation,” Applied Economics, 37(16), 1871-1879.


One thought on “A Game-Theoretic Analysis of Male-female Toilet Seat Behavior

  1. Ladies I understand your frustration when men leave the toilet seat up! Trust me. I moved in with my GF and I always simply forgot to put the seat down, I really meant to put it back down but I always forgot! So one day I used the potty and my GF had left me a sticky note reminding me of it, whatever…, however it occurred to me that it would be cool if I had some sort of reminder that I can use to put the seat down, but also not feel like she was demanding it from me. What I did was to come up with a sticker with some funny designs and a short message to get the point across. I first tried it in a party at my house, everybody loved it and surprisingly the bathroom was kept clean the whole night. Then gave away some of my stickers to other friends and the results were outstanding. I could go on and on…zzzz but just try them yourself check them out at http://www.pottytrainmyman.com that is my site, you will crack up! Thanks to you all and good luck! Humor keeps us loving life.
    Also check MySpace: http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=276843165

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