Youth and Maturity Tested Using a Game-Theory Protocol

If you ever have the opportunity to have a conversation with a young person, as I did with one who is about to make a change from high school to a college setting as a freshman in the fall, you might want to understand the student’s readiness for a significant advance in social and intellectual expectancies. Although understanding is not correcting. How you work with that understanding, if it happens to be a concern, is a difficult task. There will be a growth spurt, and the student should understand that and be ready with expectancies for change, and having a successful transition. To that end, I have a concept of game theory that can be used to take notice of a person’s level of readiness for the experience. Mental maturity, to handle the challenges of study and learning, may not be the major issue with your young one.

Testing the social maturity is to see what sort of personality the student will take into the new experience. You may already have made some pre-judgments by observations of the prospective college student’s interactions with his or her high school friends over the last four years. Presently, he or she is a product of the high school culture, which is probably rather standard throughout the public school systems in many places. I would call it adolescent groupiness that uses strong stereotyped judgments of “classes” of people. (Such as, pointing to some unfortunate person with the general perception, “O, he’s a dumb jock” or “She’s a slut.” Etc.) Such treatment of a member of the secondary school culture perpetuates stereotyping and may be a characteristic of the adolescent level of social maturity. I think the “adolescent” level of maturity ought to be left behind for the young adult plane of performance.

That type of socially inept adolescence probably speaks for aspects of the uncorrected conditions in the student’s home that developed such offhand labeling of another person. What causes one person to look down on another person with some sort of condemnation, regardless of the truth or falsity of the appelation, some evidence of such snobbish immaturity probably comes from the home and/or the “gang”. Such pre-judgment acts are socially acceptable within the “gang”, and perhaps in the home as well, taken from parental influence, mother and father effects, wealth and indulgence effects, among others, but especially from the student’s peers.

I am not reporting results of scientifically controlled studies. These are simply my empirical observations and summary judgments.

I do use a game-theory principle to organize and somewhat “measure” the levels of maturity I can observe in others. There are four levels, denoted and defined, thus:
(1) The “PATIENT” perspective in any situation, as the onlooker or member of any audience, or the fan sitting in the stands, in the auditorium; simply receiving the acts going on; onlookers uninvolved in the main action;
(2)The “AGENT” perspective in any situation, as the player in the competition, the highly partisan performer on either side, an almost infantile, self-centered aspect of one’s outlook;
(3) The “RECIPROCATOR” perspective in any situation, which is the view of the coach with the competitive game plan based on anticipated knowledge of the opposing game plan; the reciprocator manages the partisanship on one side of the competition by astute judgments of the elements of the conflict coming from the other side; the consumate chess player. There is a certain mutuality in this view, a tit-for-tat interplay of interests, and in the coaches’ views are the mutual appreciations of the tasks; coach competitors are friends in the brotherhood;
and (4) the “REFEREE” perspective, the field judge, flag thrower, rule enforcer, the grand, overall perspective of the critic, the reporter, any judge, any aesthetician who knows the art and beauty of the game and “punishes” by calling out those despoilers of the beauty of the game, or the trashing of any of the rules.

With those definitions in mind, I started up a conversation with a young man. I chose a subject that I knew would interst him. I showed that I was interested in his point of view on a subject that was an important interst of his, a certain singing group of some British boys. I tried to bring up every facet of his opinion on that group.

In our conversation, I was hoping that he would show some reciprocal interest in my side of the issue of music and singers. I knew beforehand that he actually expressed a hate for the classical music and opera that I prefer.

At that point in our talk, I would have made the judgment (in the terms of game theory) that he might have the opportunity to represent a more mature, reciprocator view of our interaction. I hoped for it. I wanted it because I wanted the chance myself to expresss what I see and feel in the so-called classical form of music and opera. He could have gone farther afield and considered his conversational partner having some preferences, likes and dislikes, and a desire to express them. That is my understanding of what constitutes evidence of a more mature personality. That would have been a showing of mutual respect, which I would call a quality of the more mature social personality, the very important trait of more mature people, a special caring for others in any interaction.

I believe that the more mature personality will gain much and make greater progress in human relations, and that may make a person more employable, or useful, or desireable for a number of purpopses.

The question is, was he too young to have learned that quality? Could that, or should that have been learned in high school, at the age of 17 or 18? My guess would be that that perspective might have been taught in the home at a younger age than 18. We do not all succeed in that.

We might have ended up discussing the qualities and functions of two different types of music, and we both may have enlarged our music appreciation. He will not be staying in a dorm, as I did my first year on campus. In the dorm, late night dicussions constitute one of the great educational experiences young philosophers can have for their intellectual maturation. The big part of that is taking in the views of a great many different backgrounds, and giving as well as your taking. Taking the measure of the competition.

Well, he is young. We’ll see.

I believe that such a view of game-theory is a simple and handy reference for determining what is going wrong and what is going right in human interactions. When the level of a person’s performance in a conversation is ascertained by that method of observation in the on-going dialog, you may be able to lift the conversation to a higher, and more valuable plane of interaction. It is assumed that the higher plane is a more valuable plane for both participants. If the conversation is “retarded” by a more immature partner, then you may feel the need to instruct the partner by explicitly suggesting some movement toward a more rewarding level of talk. If that is seen by you to be difficult for your fellow conversant, then do not push it.