September 1, 2018 at 6:00 pm

Math-Biology Seminar | Open-Minded Imitation in Vaccination Games, Sept. 25

Dr. Winfried Just, portrait

Dr. Winfried Just

The Dynamical Systems and Mathematical Biology Seminar presents Dr. Winfried Just discussing “Open-minded imitation in vaccination games” on Tuesday, Sept. 25, from 3:05 to 4 p.m. in Morton 313.

Just is Professor of Mathematics at Ohio University. Collaborators are David Gerberry of Xavier University and Ying Xin of Ohio University and Montana State University.

Abstract: Decisions about voluntary vaccinations can be modeled as so-called vaccination games. These models predict that rational players will vaccinate at a level that is less than optimal for society as a whole. However, decision-making of real people is not entirely governed by rationality; it also involves heuristics such as imitation of successful others. Previous research on imitation has shown though that imitation in vaccination games may lead to even worse outcomes than rational decision-making.

A large segment of the extensive literature on imitation in vaccination games is based on the assumption that a player’s probability of switching to another strategy is governed by so-called Fermi functions. We critically examined this assumption and discovered that if we relax it by introducing a new parameter that can be interpreted as a degree of open-mindedness, then for sufficiently high values of this new parameter the population will arrive at an equilibrium that can be arbitrarily close to the societal optimum.

These findings open up a vast number of problems for follow-up research, some of which will be outlined in the talk.

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