July 22, 2013

Prisoner Games

F. E. Guerra-Pujol, Barry University School of Law & Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico, has published The Parable of the Prisoners. Here is the abstract.

Of the 78 possible strategic games in two-person game theory, one has acquired the most attention, and the most notoriety, from scholars and laymen alike. The so-called “Prisoner’s Dilemma,” or what we prefer to call the “Parable of the Prisoners,” is not only the most famous formal model of conflict and cooperation in the mathematical theory of games; it has also has generated extensive commentary in a wide variety of social sciences and other fields, including psychology, biology, politics, economics, law, and philosophy. In this paper, we shall revisit the origins of this popular parable and review a small but representative sample of this diverse literature, identifying common themes and ideas. We shall also present an opposing parable to show that the dilemma in the Prisoner’s Dilemma is unavoidable and inescapable in the one-shot version of the game, and we shall explain why this parable is more than just a story; it is an exemplar or mathematical “paradigm.”
In summary, this paper is organized as follows: following this brief introduction, Part 2 reconstructs the origins of the Parable of the Prisoners. Part 3 then reviews various versions of the parable and the uses to which this parable has been put. By way of contrast, Part 4 presents a diametrically different model of behavior — the Altruist’s Dilemma — based on a suggestion by Schelling (1968), and Part 5 explains why the original Prisoner’s Dilemma is not just an instructive parable but also a scientific “paradigm.” Part 6 concludes.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link. 

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