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The first write-up of the Prisoner's (or is it Prisoners'?) Dilemma: Merrill Flood (1958): Some Experimental Games: "Summary: Two players non-cooperatively choose rows and columns of their payoff matrices in a series of 100 plays of a non-constant sum game. The purpose of this experimental game is to determine which of several theories best describes their behavior. The players, being familiar with zero-sum game theory, happen to choose a poor solution for their non-constant-sum game...

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Prisoner's Dilemma, or Prisoners' Dilemma?: Hoisted from the Archives

Game Theory

Hoisted from the Archives: Prisoner's Dilemma: An extended passage from William Poundstone's (1992) marvelous book Prisoner's Dilemma (New York: Doubleday: 038541580X) https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0307763781. Economists will find it hilarious and thought-provoking. Others will probably find it bizarre and weird. It comes from pp.106-118.

Flood and Dresher devised a simple game where [the Nash equilibrium wasn't such a good outcome for the players].... The researchers wondered if real people playing the game--especially, people who had never heard of Nash or equilibrium points--would be drawn mysteriously to the equilibrium strategy. Flood and Dresher doubted it.

The two researchers ran an experiment that very afternoon. They recruited two friends as guinea pigs, Armen Alchian of UCLA ("AA" below), and RAND's John D. Williams ("JW"). The game was presented purely as a payoff table. The payoffs were:

(AA's payoff, JW's payoff) JW's Strategy 1 [Defect] JW's Strategy 2 [Cooperate]
AA's Strategy 1 [Cooperate] (-1, 2) (1/2, 1)
AA's Strategy 2 [Defect] (0, 1/2) (1, -1)

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