One striking observation in the history of rational choice models is that those models have not only been used in economics but been spread widely across the social and behavioral sciences. How do such model transfers proceed? By closely studying the early efforts to transfer such models by William Riker—a major protagonist in pushing the adoption of game-theoretic models in political science—this article examines the transfer process as one of “translation” by which abstract and mathematical rational choice models were constructed and modified such that they applied to a specific target system in a new domain. In this article, the argument is that to overcome a set of challenges that hampered the straightforward transfer of game-theoretic models into political science, Riker complemented theoretical and conceptual modifications of von Neumann and Morgenstern's game schemes with the use of narratives to turn them into applicable and testable models. As such, those narratives played a crucial role in enabling their transfer and ultimately facilitated the applicability of game-theoretic models in political science.

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