Resilient Cooperators Stabilize Long-Run Cooperation in the Finitely Repeated Prisoner's Dilemma

Nature Communications 8, Article number: 13800 (2017), DOI: 10.1038/ncomms13800

10 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2016 Last revised: 15 Jan 2017

See all articles by Andrew Mao

Andrew Mao

Microsoft

Lili Dworkin

University of Pennsylvania

Siddharth Suri

Yahoo! - Yahoo! Research Labs

Duncan Watts

Microsoft Corporation - Microsoft Research, New York City

Date Written: August 10, 2016

Abstract

Learning in finitely repeated games of cooperation remains poorly understood in part because their dynamics play out over a timescale exceeding that of traditional lab experiments. Here, we report results of a virtual lab experiment in which 94 subjects play up to 400 ten-round games of Prisoner’s Dilemma over the course of twenty consecutive weekdays. Consistent with previous work, the typical round of first defection moves earlier for several days; however, this unraveling process stabilizes after roughly one week. Analysing individual strategies, we find that approximately 40% of players behave as resilient cooperators who avoid unraveling even at significant cost to themselves. Finally, using a standard learning model we predict that a sufficiently large minority of resilient cooperators can permanently stabilize unraveling among a majority of rational players. These results shed hopeful light on the long-term dynamics of cooperation, and demonstrate the importance of long-run experiments.

Keywords: virtual lab, behavioral experiment, cooperation, prisoner's dilemma, economics, human behavior

Suggested Citation

Mao, Andrew and Dworkin, Lili and Suri, Siddharth and Watts, Duncan, Resilient Cooperators Stabilize Long-Run Cooperation in the Finitely Repeated Prisoner's Dilemma (August 10, 2016). Nature Communications 8, Article number: 13800 (2017), DOI: 10.1038/ncomms13800. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2756249 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2756249

Andrew Mao (Contact Author)

Microsoft ( email )

641 Avenue of Americas
New York, NY 10011
United States

Lili Dworkin

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Siddharth Suri

Yahoo! - Yahoo! Research Labs ( email )

Sunnyvale, CA 94089
United States

Duncan Watts

Microsoft Corporation - Microsoft Research, New York City ( email )

641 Avenue of Americas
New York, NY 10011
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
127
rank
210,888
Abstract Views
779
PlumX Metrics