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Cooperation, Secret Handshakes, and Imitation in the Prisoners' Dilemma

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  • Wiseman, Thomas
  • Yilankaya, Okan

Abstract

In the prisoners' dilemma game, the only evolutionary stable strategy is defection, even though nutual cooperation yields a higher payoff. Building on a paper by Robson (1990), we introduce mutants who have the ability to send a (costly) signal, i.e., the "secret handshake," before each round of the game and to condition their actions on whether or not they observe the same signal from their opponent. A population playing the strategy "always defect" is vulnerable to secret handshake mutants who cooperate when they meet other secret handshakers and defect against tother opponents. However, these secret handshakers are in turn vulberable ot a second round of mutants who imitate the secret handshake and then defect against all opponents. But now a new group of secret handshakers with a different secret handshake can arise. Thus, play can cycle between cooperation and defection. We study the dynamics of that cycling. We show that in the limit, as the probability of mutation goes to zero, cooperation occurs on average half the time. Using simulations to study the implications of our model when the mutation probability is larger than zero, we find that it is possible for cooperation to be sustained for long periods. In general, cooperation is favored when mutual cooperation has aj large payoff advantage over mutual defection, and when the payoff advantage of unilateral defection is small. Surprisingly, however, there are cases where an increased payoff to unilateral defection actually raises the level of cooperation.
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Suggested Citation

  • Wiseman, Thomas & Yilankaya, Okan, 2001. "Cooperation, Secret Handshakes, and Imitation in the Prisoners' Dilemma," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 216-242, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:gamebe:v:37:y:2001:i:1:p:216-242
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    1. Bergstrom, Theodore C & Stark, Oded, 1993. "How Altruism Can Prevail in an Evolutionary Environment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(2), pages 149-155, May.
    2. Fudenberg, Drew & Maskin, Eric, 1990. "Evolution and Cooperation in Noisy Repeated Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(2), pages 274-279, May.
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    5. Guttman, Joel M., 1996. "Rational actors, tit-for-tat types, and the evolution of cooperation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 27-56, January.
    6. John H. Miller & Carter Butts & David Rode, 1998. "Communication and Cooperation," Working Papers 98-04-037, Santa Fe Institute.
    7. Kim, Yong-Gwan & Sobel, Joel, 1995. "An Evolutionary Approach to Pre-play Communication," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(5), pages 1181-1193, September.
    8. Ockenfels, Peter, 1993. "Cooperation in prisoners' dilemma : An evolutionary approach," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 9(4), pages 567-579, November.
    9. Nachbar, John H., 1992. "Evolution in the finitely repeated prisoner's dilemma," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 307-326, December.
    10. Bhaskar, V., 1998. "Noisy Communication and the Evolution of Cooperation," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 110-131, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Mary L. Rigdon & Kevin A. McCabe & Vernon L. Smith, 2007. "Sustaining Cooperation in Trust Games," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 117(522), pages 991-1007, July.
    2. repec:wsi:igtrxx:v:05:y:2003:i:03:n:s0219198903001033 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Man, Priscilla T.Y., 2012. "Efficiency and stochastic stability in normal form games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 76(1), pages 272-284.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C70 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - General
    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General

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