The Prisoner’s Dilemma has been a subject of inquiry for more than 60 years, not just by game theorists but also by psychologists, economists, political scientists, and evolutionary biologists. Yet the game has not given up all its secrets. A startling discovery last year revealed a whole new class of strategies, including some bizarre ones. For example, over a long series of games one player can unilaterally dictate the other player’s score (within a certain range). Or a crafty player can control the ratio of the two scores. But not all the new strategies are so manipulative; some are “generous” rules that elicit cooperation and thereby excel in an evolutionary context.naked capitalism: Elinor Ostrom on the Prisoner’s Dilemma (Which You Should Approach with a Hermeneutic of Suspicion)
One important application of PD is found in Garrett Hardin’s extremely influential “Tragedy of the Commons” (Science162, 1243-1248 (1968)):
(Hardin, though citing to game theory sources, does not use the term PD explicitly. However, the payoff matrix for cooperation vs. defection is the same, as is the outcome of the game.) QED, right? Not so fast.
It’s interesting to note that when social scientist got around to — quelle horreur — actually testing Prisoner’s Dilemma on real prisoners, PD (and by extension not only Tucker’s thesis, but Hardin’s “tragedy”) broke down:
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