Transactional Analysis: Game Theory of TA

Reprinted from  “Game Theory in a Nutshell”:

Dr. Berne discovered the Game Theory area of T/A during close study of alcoholics. He defined only three roles or moves in Game-playing: Victim, Rescuer, and Persecutor. You all make these moves in virtually all transactions, automatically, by default, because these three moves were given to you by example, since the day that you first drew breath, since every one of you grew up inside the Culture-Structure.

The advantage of learning and consciously, intentionally operating inside of an awareness of Games operated by others is the same as with any skill: You can learn to drive from a parent, or you can learn to drive at racing school; you can learn English in school or on the street or from our brain-deadening media – or you can study an encyclopedia and a dictionary and a thesaurus. One is haphazard, the other produces a skill.

How you know that there is a Game is that there is a switch. Someone bangs their car into yours, you become a Victim – or they do. If there is a policeman nearby, you might prevail upon them to Rescue you. Both sides in such a case will usually attempt the role of Persecutor, either immediately – loud accusations, even fisticuffs – or wait to ask the insurance company to Rescue by acting as Persecutor.

The Dating Game is fraught with soap opera-style drama: girl flirts with boy (Rescue me from being single); boy takes girl out and is over-aggressive (she is Victim); she tells all her friends (Rescue by sympathy). Meanwhile, he tells all his friends how she conned him for dinner and entertainment (he is also Victim, from the same evening), and likewise receives ‘Rescue by sympathy’.

If things go just a little wrong, she warns her friends of his boorish or ill-mannered behavior (Persecutor), and-or he lies to his friends that she led him on and did not acquiesce (same evening: he is also Persecutor). If things go really bad, she calls the cops on him for touching her (serious Persecutor), or he does more than touch her (same: serious Persecutor). Switch, switch, switch.

On and on, for the last several millennia, with no solution expected for the never-ending Battle of the Sexes/Genders – or for the Irish or the Israelis or the native population of whatever country you want to name.

But the use of T/A skills can intervene in this automatic stimulus-response, which occurs at the level of Individual, at the levels of Group and Community, and indeed, between nations and races. In fact, should an expedition of Martians ever land on the White House lawn, Mankind will perpetuate this same Game behavior on them, which the Martians will not comprehend. I expect any such party of Visitors From Space will either take us under their wing, classifying us as intergalactic savages, or take immediate offense and wipe us out without a qualm.

Photo credit.


  1. Read a book simular to that 10 years back. Guess I can say that is one of the reads that started me on the understanding of the people in my life as well as myself. Learning to get off the triangle. Being the best I can be is the best for those I care for in the healthiest way.


  2. Hi I’m Marc
    Nice meeting you all
    Hope everyone is doing well

    “The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we ALL believe that we are above-average drivers.”
    [url=]real estate[/url] — Dave Barry


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