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Equilibrium Selection in the Repeated Prisoner's Dilemma: Axiomatic Approach and Experimental Evidence


  • Matthias Blonski
  • Peter Ockenfels
  • Giancarlo Spagnolo


We propose an axiomatic approach for equilibrium selection in the discounted, infinitely repeated symmetric Prisoner's Dilemma. Our axioms characterize a unique selection criterion that is also useful as a tool for applied comparative statics exercises as it results in a critical discount factor δ* strictly larger than δ, the standard criterion that has often been used in applications. In an experimental test we find a strong predictive power of our proposed criterion. For parameter changes where the standard and our criterion predict differently, changes in observed cooperation follow predictions based on δ* . (JEL C72, C73, C92, D81)

Suggested Citation

  • Matthias Blonski & Peter Ockenfels & Giancarlo Spagnolo, 2011. "Equilibrium Selection in the Repeated Prisoner's Dilemma: Axiomatic Approach and Experimental Evidence," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 164-192, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejmic:v:3:y:2011:i:3:p:164-92 Note: DOI: 10.1257/mic.3.3.164

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Susan Athey & Kyle Bagwell & Chris Sanchirico, 2004. "Collusion and Price Rigidity," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 71(2), pages 317-349.
    2. Frank Heinemann & Rosemarie Nagel & Peter Ockenfels, 2009. "Measuring Strategic Uncertainty in Coordination Games," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(1), pages 181-221.
    3. Matthias Blonski & Giancarlo Spagnolo, 2015. "Prisoners’ other Dilemma," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer;Game Theory Society, vol. 44(1), pages 61-81, February.
    4. Feinberg, Robert M & Husted, Thomas A, 1993. "An Experimental Test of Discount-Rate Effects on Collusive Behaviour in Duopoly Markets," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 41(2), pages 153-160, June.
    5. Aoyagi, Masaki & Fréchette, Guillaume, 2009. "Collusion as public monitoring becomes noisy: Experimental evidence," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 144(3), pages 1135-1165, May.
    6. Drew Fudenberg & Jean Tirole, 1991. "Game Theory," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262061414, July.
    7. James W. Friedman, 1971. "A Non-cooperative Equilibrium for Supergames," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(1), pages 1-12.
    8. Harsanyi John C., 1995. "A New Theory of Equilibrium Selection for Games with Incomplete Information," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 318-332, August.
    9. Duffy, John & Ochs, Jack, 2009. "Cooperative behavior and the frequency of social interaction," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 66(2), pages 785-812, July.
    10. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C73 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Stochastic and Dynamic Games; Evolutionary Games
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty


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