Prisoner's Dilemma: Explaining Human Behavior and Leadership
Mon, April 19, 2021

Prisoner's Dilemma: Explaining Human Behavior and Leadership

This finding is very significant since it can promote peaceful cooperation between individuals, groups, companies, and even countries if it is done correctly and effectively / Photo by: primagefactory via 123RF

 

Researchers from the American Institute of Physics suggested that analyzing human behavior in a scenario known as the “prisoner’s dilemma” shows that people who are more likely to cooperate with others can also become effective leaders that can influence others to cooperate as well. This finding is very significant since it can promote peaceful cooperation between individuals, groups, companies, and even countries if it is done correctly and effectively. 

 

Game Theory

According to Behavioral Economics, an online resource for human behavior and economics news and journals, game theory is a mathematical approach in modeling human behavior by analyzing the strategic decision each person makes and by interacting with other players. The standard game theory operates in the assumption that all players are rational maximizers and they will all act in their self-interest. 

Meanwhile, behavioral game theory extends this notion by analyzing and taking into account how the players feel about the payoffs and the consequences of their actions and how it might affect other players.

What Is the Prisoner’s Dilemma?

The prisoner’s dilemma is one of the most widely used games in game theory. The term was coined by Albert W. Tucker in 1950, who also developed the problem in his earlier works and he was also influenced by the works of other researchers. The prisoner’s dilemma, as reported on Policonomics, an economics website that publishes and explains economic and political jargon, describes a situation where two prisoners, who are suspected of burglary, are taken into prison, but the policemen do not have enough evidence to convict them with the crime, only on the charge of possession of stolen goods. 

The prisoners are faced with three possible scenarios. The first scenario is none of them confesses, which means that they will have to cooperate with each other, and both will be charged the lesser sentence of one year in prison each. The second scenario is both of the prisoners confess and they get charged with the full sentence of eight years each. The third scenario is when one of them confesses, he gets scot-free while the other gets 10 years.

Judging by the different outcomes from each scenario, the prisoners would do well to cooperate with one another and not confess at all. The catch is that neither prisoner knows the other’s strategy as they were confronted by the police separately and so, both will most likely confess, thinking that the other will not.

The game is used to predict behaviors of certain individuals, groups of people, and even countries and to provide an extensive explanation of the costs and benefits of cooperation or deflecting. In the prisoner’s dilemma, it fairly illustrates that if the two of them cooperated, they will get the most benefit out of the scenario. However, if one chooses to act on his own self-interest then it can definitely jeopardize the other prisoner’s chance of being free. 

Hence, the prisoner’s dilemma suggests that it is always wise to cooperate with other people in order to preserve the integrity of every participant of the game or in the bigger community and society as a whole. 

Cooperation Can Lead to Leadership

Scientists from the American Institute in Physics (AIP) recently revisited the classic prisoner’s dilemma as a part of game theory, and their work has been published in AIP’s publication titled Chaos. The researchers used a specialized graph to map a social network of cooperators and their neighbors. They discovered cooperators can attract more people into following their cooperative behavior and they are more likely to become leaders. This indicates that there are different learning patterns that exist between cooperators and defectors that can be very important in understanding human behavior.

The first author of the study, Zhihai Rong, claimed that the correlation analysis that his team did showed that there is a spatial game—the more time a person holds on to the cooperation strategy, the more they are likely to become a leader and the more likely their behavior is mimicked by the people around them, which eventually builds a long-term reciprocity partnership among all members, as reported on Science Daily, a scientific and medical news website. 

Moreover, the authors explained that people adapt to the successful behavior of others in order to improve their status in society. Hence, the people who mimic the cooperative behavior of successful cooperators can become cooperators themselves and have a more collaborative society instead of a hierarchical one. Rong expounded that the different learning patterns between cooperator and defector may provide some clues in predicting the strategy of different individuals by analyzing the learning process of their neighbors. 

Having a tool to somehow predict or anticipate human behavior can be groundbreaking in terms of understanding the human psyche, which can be useful for cognitive behavioral therapy and other forms of psychiatric therapies. It can also be applied in economics and politics in order to anticipate and create more or less accurate predictions about the future turnout of the market and society as a whole.

Having a tool to somehow predict or anticipate human behavior can be groundbreaking in terms of understanding the human psyche, which can be useful for cognitive behavioral therapy and other forms of psychiatric therapies / Photo by: rido via 123RF