Game Theory and Networks of Interacting Agents

FutureLab on Game Theory and Networks of Interacting Agents – GaNe [geɪn]
Game Theory and Networks of Interacting Agents
FutureLab on Game Theory and Networks of Interacting Agents

Mitigating climate change requires cooperation on an unprecedented scale, from local communities to the international sphere. Significant progress has been made in describing how individuals behave and interact: while game theory describes fundamental problems such as free-riding, networks can represent the complex structure of the global community, and behavioral economics and social psychology analyze how agents learn from experience and social interactions. Still, modeling decision making across different scales remains an interdisciplinary challenge. How cooperation may or may not emerge is an open question.

In this cross-institutional FutureLab between PIK and MCC, established in January 2019 and hosted by PIK's Research Department 4, a small team of interdisciplinary researchers explores and develops cutting-edge modeling and analysis methods for complex decision situations with several decision makers, and applies these to problems in national and international climate policy and sustainable management.

Our overarching question is: What are effective mechanisms and incentives for cooperative climate change mitigation by agents interacting on various levels?

Main Research Questions

    • What are innovative theories and methods to study agents’ strategic interactions?
    • What incentives and mechanisms result in reducing emissions?
    • How should one design policy instruments and institutions to enhance cooperation on climate change mitigation?


    In our work, we combine concepts and ideas from

    • classical and evolutionary game theory
    • behavioural economics and social psychology of decision making
    • agent-based models of individual and social learning
    • dynamical systems, complex networks, and statistical physics
    • optimal control and viability theory
    • welfare theory, social choice theory, and formal ethics
    • political science of institutions
    • mathematical logics and order theory

    Our working modes are theoretical modeling, numerical modeling, advanced statistical analysis, and behavioural experiments.


    Ulrike Kornek (MCC)
    Jobst Heitzig
    (PIK RD4)


    Publications list


    We welcome applications by masters' students of economics, mathematics, physics, and computer science for co-supervision of thesis work relating to our research questions. Just contact us to discuss possible thesis topics. Examples of possible thesis topics are listed below.


    Current members of GaNe are

    • Ulrike Kornek (MCC, lab leader)
    • Jobst Heitzig (PIK RD4, lab leader)
    • Alexandra Hüttel (PIK RD4, postdoc)
    • Simon Feindt (MCC, PhD student)
    • Sarah Hiller (FU Berlin and PIK RD4, PhD student)
    • Marvin Lücke (ZIB and PIK RD4, PhD student)
    • Leander John (U Heidelberg, master student)
    • Philippe Lehmann (TU Berlin, master student)
    • Sören Nagel (TU Berlin, master student)
    • Christoph Pröschel (TU Berlin, master student)

    Former members include

    • Marius Amrhein (PIK RD4, master student)
    • Sara Ansari (PIK RD4, PhD student)
    • Johannes Brachem (U Göttingen, master student)
    • Paula Cremerius (PIK RD4, master student)
    • Stellio del Campo (MCC, postdoc)
    • Nils Dunker (PIK RD4, master student)
    • Luzie Helfmann (FU Berlin, ZIB and PIK RD4, PhD student)
    • Jakob Kolb (PIK RD4, PhD student)
    • Jule Neubauer (TU Berlin, master student)
    • Richard Scherzer (TU Berlin, bachelor student)
    • Felix Strnad (PIK RD4, master student)
    • Marc Wiedermann (PIK RD4, postdoc)


    Our current research focusses on

    We participate in RD4's seminar series and in the MATH+ young researcher colloquium CHANGES+.

    Work in progress

    The following publications are currently under review, in revision, about to be submitted, or have been submitted:

    Examples of possible thesis topics

      • Numerical simulation of individual and social learning dynamics in simple games and assessment of their convergence towards strategic equilibria (physics)
      • Solving a certain set of partial differential equations representing a model of farsighted strategy updating in simple games (mathematics)
      • Design and implementation of a decentralized and confidential communication structure for a social app for collaboration via conditional commitments (computer science)
      • Analytical identification of equilibria in games in which agents have prospect theory preferences and can only adjust their behaviour smoothly, including existence proofs using fixed point theorems (mathematics)
      • Identification of the topology of ties relevant for strategic decisions and cooperation: international diplomatic/trust/security/trade networks, public administration hierarchies, etc. (political science)
      • Analyzing the role of heterogeneity of countries for the successful design of compensation funds for global public good provision; game-theoretic approach in an analytical model (economics)
      • Modeling the impact of unilateral policy measures (taxes, permits, subsidies, targeted support etc) to induce multilateral cooperation in a multi-level public good game; reduced-form analytical modeling and/or numerical implementation with a network-approach (economics/physics)