How fair is White Elephant?
This article was first published on analyze stuff. It has been contributed to Anything but R-bitrary in celebration of its introductory post.By Max Ghenis
Welcome to analyze stuff! For our first post, I wanted to reflect on the time of year; after all, ‘tis the season for hams and yams, caroling and sledding, and of course gifts! One popular party gift exchange game is the White Elephant, where each person brings a wrapped (typically regifted or otherwise odd-ball) gift, and then picks one in order with the option of “stealing” another unwrapped gift. Relative to other matching problems, for example, the stable marriage problem or the secretary problem, both of which have elegant defined solutions, strikingly little research has been done on the fairness of this game (with perhaps one exception).
As an operations research guy, my tool of choice for these situations tends to be the discrete event simulation. This is a nice approach for understanding systems that are too complex to model closed-form, of which White Elephant is a perfect example. R’s combination of statistical functions, random number generators, and encapsulation makes it an ideal language for performing discrete event simulations.
In this article, I use R to create Click to read full article and/or write a comment
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