Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute

The book cover of "Ranking: The Unwritten Rules of the Social Game We All Play" by Peter Erdi.



The Ranking Game from a Hungarian Perspective
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Registration required. Please note that all attendees must follow Columbia’s COVID-19 Policies and Guidelines. Columbia University is committed to protecting the health and safety of its community.  To that end, all visiting alumni and guests must meet the University requirement of full vaccination status in order to attend in-person events.  Vaccination cards may be checked upon entry to all venues.  

Please join us for a talk with Péter Érdi, author of Ranking: The Unwritten Rules of the Social Game We All Play (Oxford University Press, October 2019) moderated by Christopher Caes. The lecture was originally scheduled for March 2020.


Human beings are competitive. We like to see who is stronger, richer, better, more clever. Since humans (1) love lists, (2) are competitive, and (3) are jealous of other people, we like ranking. Ranking reflects the reality, illusion, and manipulation of objectivity.


Some situations, like ranking people based on height, can be ranked in objective ways. However, many “Top Ten” lists are based on subjective categorization and give only the illusion of objectivity. In fact, we don’t always want to be seen objectively since we don’t mind having a better image or rank than deserved. Ranking: The Unwritten Rules of the Social Game We All Play applies scientific theories to everyday experience by raising and answering questions like: Are college ranking lists objective? How do we rank and rate countries based on their fragility, level of corruption, or even happiness? How do we find the most relevant web pages? How are employees ranked?


This book is for people who have a neighbor with a fancier car; employees, who are being ranked by their supervisors; managers, who are involved in ranking but may have qualms about the process; businesspeople interested in creating better visibility for their companies; scientists, writers, artists, and other competitors who would like to see themselves at the top of a success list; or college students who are just preparing to enter a new phase of social competition. Readers will engage in an intellectual adventure to better understand the difficulties of navigating between objectivity and subjectivity and to better identify and modify their place in real and virtual communities by combining human and computational intelligence.

Péter Érdi is the Henry R. Luce Professor of Complex Systems Studies at Kalamazoo College. He is also a research professor in his home town, Budapest, at the Wigner Research Centre of Physics. In addition, he is the founding co-director of the Budapest Semester in Cognitive Science, a study abroad program. Péter served as a Member of the Board of Governors and the  vice-president of the International Neural Network Society, and s as the Editor-in-Chief of Cognitive Systems Research. His books on mathematical modeling of chemical, biological and other complex systems have been published by Princeton University Press, MIT Press, Springer Publishing House.

For the international success of the book see:–ranking—book.html.

For a recent book see:,

Peter’s website:

A related talk: