In the study of behavioral rationality and supply-demand parity, few multiple producer problems rival the intricacy of the Potluck Dilemma. This paper investigates agents’ motivations and production as they attend multiple potlucks over time. Specifically, they’ll go to like four during the summer and probably a bunch more in the fall because everyone freaks out over pumpkin-flavored shit and apple cider.
II. Defining the Game
For the purposes of this model, a complete game will be considered a single gathering with enough food (“S1”) to satiate all attendees (“D1”). Goldring et al. introduced the premise of too much food—a supply-side problem—in their King’s Chef Scenario. However, this problem does not apply to the Potluck Dilemma because we all know that mooch Keith will steal the leftovers (“e”) and try to get the dog hilariously drunk. Therefore, when S1=D1+e, a single game will be complete.
The parameters of the Potluck Dilemma are both dynamic and complicated. The game pits agents with mismatched resources in a partially non-cooperative endeavor for a common goal: a party that will start with an amuse-bouche of fellowship and end with overeating to the point of heavy mouth breathing.
The wide spectrum in dish quality across the agents is itself a testament to their mismatched resources. Those itty-bitty crème brûlées Todd brought last time, for example, were the potluck nuclear option. It is the author’s opinion that it requires some sort of magical Keebler Elf-sized kitchen to create those tiny butter crusts.
The game is partially non-cooperative because, as part of the format, agents will not know ahead of time what dish other agents will bring. Statistical trials indicate that, in this format, an estimated 34 percent of guests will view the potluck as an unsolicited culinary tournament and opportunity to blow the author’s ranch dip out of the water. Again, fuck you Todd.
III. Predicting Production
In the Potluck Dilemma, a per-agent algorithm of motivation (“M”) and previous performance (“P2”) predicts compliance. Mary, for example, brought a blueberry French toast casserole to the last potluck. It was straight baller. She will most likely phone it in next time and bring cheese or something. Karen, on the other hand, got hammered on Alabama Slammers at her company potluck and puked in the paper shredder. As a result, Karen will purchase a new muffin tin so she can bake savory pastries that project maturity and poise. She’ll probably try to slip in some talk about stock options, too. In these two agents, we see an inverse relationship between M and P2.
Resources (“R”) can impact compliance as well. When R is low, such as when two or more graduate students are invited, compliance can decrease regardless of M or P2. The predicted outcome is most likely pasta with red sauce or unseasoned scrambled eggs. Agents might think ingenuity will compensate for low R. However, as evidenced by the food snake Brian made by adding black olive eyes to a link of salami, this is a fallacy—one that haunts the author’s dreams.
Another factor that impacts performance is a trend known as the Host Phenomenon. This phenomenon is an extension of the host’s (aka Cheryl’s) ability to alter agent motivation based on her inevitable place in the center of all drama.
One possible extrapolation is the sum of Brad’s secret crush on Cheryl combined with Tiffany’s jealousy for Cheryl because she can’t get Brad to notice her. Computer simulations and scatter plots allow us to examine various outcomes. Will Tiffany sabotage Cheryl’s famous jalapeño cream poppers with a mountain of table salt? Multiple computer simulations suggest that, more than 72 percent of the time, hell yeah she will. Tiffany’s crazy like that.
The Potluck Dilemma offers various insights on producer behaviors when attending one of Cheryl’s snooty gatherings. The individual determinants of compliance are so complex for each agent from game to game that a Nash Equilibrium is all but impossible. Few constants exist. Except that Drew will drink too much and fire off that unhinged laugh at all his own jokes. That’s a given.