You may want to sit down before reading this

Since the end of the cold war, game theory has languished a little. But now, it’s proving its indispensability.

The social norm of leaving the toilet seat down: A game theoretic analysis
Hammad Siddiqi
We model the toilet seat problem as a 2 player non-cooperative game. We find that the social norm of leaving the toilet seat down is inefficient. However, to the dismay of “mankind”, we also find that the social norm of leaving the seat down after use is a trembling-hand perfect equilibrium. Hence, sadly, this norm is not likely to go away.

As I recall, the last game theory study to receive any significant media attention was one on the economics of faking orgasms.

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4 Responses to You may want to sit down before reading this

  1. Joshua Gans says:

    This is an old result. Click here. Indeed, the paper you cite is not about the seat per se but about the costs of yelling and that efficiency needs to consider this as well.

  2. David P says:

    I’ve never understood this toilet seat issue.

    I think there is an explanation for it, and it is one that applies to both sexes – people leave the toilet seat where it was when they finished their business.

    We could test this by imposing a requirement that people put the toilet lid (not just the seat) down when finished. Then we could see if there was a gender difference in responding to a requirement that EVERYONE would have to reposition things.

    Must be a PhD in this somewhere.

  3. Bruce Bradbury says:

    Reminds me of some research from a few years ago by my colleague Michael Bittman. He found that men and women generally had similar expectations about the level of cleanliness that they desire in their house (even though women did most of the cleaning).

    The interesting exception to this was the bathroom, where men were happy with much less frequent cleaning. I put this down to the difference between sitting down and standing up.

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