Playing Chicken

By owner

chickensDid you ever play chicken when you were a kid? Do you know what playing chicken means? According to Wikipedia, the “chicken game”┬áis also known by other names, including “hawk-dove” and “snowdrift” – although I’ve never personally heard of these varients.

Basically, it is a game that had it’s origins in having two driver drive towards one another, and if one swerves they are called a chicken. Basically, if you aren’t ready to die, you are a chicken.

But why a chicken? Are chickens inherently cowards. I find this interesting because if anyone has spent time around a mother hen, you know that she is not cowardly at all. I’ve seen mother hens attack animals (and children) much larger than herself in order to protect her chicks.

Playing chicken has been often portrayed in the movies, including in Footloose and Rebel Without a Cause. This has unfortunately glamorized a particularly dangerous game!

The game of Chicken has been researched quite extensively by students of game theory. However, these researchers use mathematical equations to conduct their research, not cars. The Hawk-Dove version is often referred to in biological literature.

It is also often used in relationship to brinkmanship in high conflict situations in the political sphere. In the end, it has to do with the escalation of conflict, and where the ultimate prize of victory often carries a very high, and dangerous cost.

But given what I know about chickens, I think the game is misnamed. In reality, chickens can be very brave creatures, and perhaps it is the winner who should be called a chicken in this game. Or even better, perhaps we should abandon playing the game altogether!