Prisoner's Dilemma Experiment Illustrates Four Basic Phenotypes
If you’ve read my book Liars and Outliers, you know I like the prisoner’s dilemma as a way to think about trust and security. There is an enormous amount of research — both theoretical and experimental — about the dilemma, which is why I found this new research so interesting. Here’s a decent summary:
The question is not just how people play these games — there are hundreds of research papers on that — but instead whether people fall into behavioral types that explain their behavior across different games. Using standard statistical methods, the researchers identified four such player types: optimists (20 percent), who always go for the highest payoff, hoping the other player will coordinate to achieve that goal; pessimists (30 percent), who act according to the opposite assumption; the envious (21 percent), who try to score more points than their partners; and the trustful (17 percent), who always cooperate. The remaining 12 percent appeared to make their choices completely at random.