Game Theory Series

Normal form gameExtensive form gameCooperative game

Equilibrium Concepts
Nash equilibriumSubgame perfect Nash equilibriumBackwards induction

Prisoner's dilemmaChicken gameHawk-Dove gameUltimatum gameCoordination gameDictator game

The Prisoner's dilemma (PD) game is a classic game theory scenario where two people could cooperate and yield a positive result but don't thanks to how the pay offs are structured.

Two suspects, Blue and Red, are arrested by the police on some mundane crime: theft. The police have sufficient evidence for a conviction but suspect the two are involved in a much larger crime: drug possession. Having separated both prisoners, the police visit each of them to offer the same deal:

  • If they both confess, each will receive a 10-year sentence.
  • If one rats the other out and the other remains silent, the betrayer goes free and the silent accomplice receives the full 15-year sentence. (Ten for the charge, five for lying to the police.)
  • If both stay silent, the police can sentence both prisoners to only two years in jail for the minor charge.

Each prisoner must make the choice of whether to betray the other or to remain silent. However, neither prisoner knows for sure what choice the other prisoner will make. So the question this dilemma poses is: What will happen? How will the prisoners act?

Canonical PD payoff matrix
Cooperate Defect
Cooperate -10, -10 0, -15
Defect -15, 0 -1, -1

See AlsoEdit

A simulation of a repeated PD game

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