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Prisoner's Dilemma

In its simplest form, the prisoner's dilemma refers to a mixed-motive conflict in which two interdependent decision makers have to decide whether to cooperate with each other or to defect. For each decision maker, the defect choice strictly dominates the cooperative choice (i.e., regardless of what the other person chooses, defection yields a better payoff to the individual than does cooperation). Yet both decision makers will be better off if they each choose cooperation rather than if either defects. Hence, there is a choice dilemma.

The prisoner's dilemma derives its name from a prototypic situation in which the police have arrested two people suspected of having committed a bank heist and have placed them in separate, isolated cells so that they cannot communicate. Because the police ...

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