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.
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