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A Game-theoretic Perspective on Diego Gambetta’s Codes of the Underworld ∗

By Avinash Dixit


Everything is a message, everything is full of meaning in the world of Cosa Nostra, no detail is too small to be overlooked. – Judge Giovanni Falcone, quoted in Stille (1995, p. 6) The expressiveness of an individual (and therefore his capacity to give impressions) appears to involve two radically different kinds of sign activity: the expression that he gives, and the expression that he gives off. The first involves verbal symbols or their substitutes which he uses admittedly and solely to convey the information that he and the others are known to attach to those symbols.... The second involves a wide range of action that the others can treat as symptomatic of the actor, the expectation being that the action was performed for reasons other than the information conveyed in this way.... The individual does of course intentionally convey misinformation by means of both these types of communication, the first involving deceit, the second feigning. – Goffman (1959, p. 2), emphases in the original Paper presented at the book-launch conference for Codes, Oxford, June 25, 2010. I will cite Gambetta’

Year: 2010
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