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Risk and Temptation: A Meta‐study on Prisoner's Dilemma Games


  • Friederike Mengel


This article reports the results of a meta‐study of 96 prisoner's dilemma studies comprising more than 3,500 participants. I disentangle the role of ‘risk’ (to co‐operate unilaterally) and ‘temptation’ (to defect against a co‐operator) and find that: (i) an index of risk best explains the variation in co‐operation rates across one‐shot games, while (ii) an index of temptation best explains the variation in finitely repeated games. Risk and temptation indices also affect gender comparisons. Women are more co‐operative than the average man if risk is low and less co‐operative if risk is high. There are no gender differences on average.

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  • Friederike Mengel, 2018. "Risk and Temptation: A Meta‐study on Prisoner's Dilemma Games," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 128(616), pages 3182-3209, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:econjl:v:128:y:2018:i:616:p:3182-3209
    DOI: 10.1111/ecoj.12548

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    Cited by:

    1. Ghidoni, Riccardo & Cleave, Blair L. & Suetens, Sigrid, 2019. "Perfect and imperfect strangers in social dilemmas," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 148-159.
    2. Arigapudi, Srinivas & Heller, Yuval & Milchtaich, Igal, 2020. "Instability of Defection in the Prisoner’s Dilemma: Best Experienced Payoff Dynamics Analysis," MPRA Paper 99594, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Srinivas Arigapudi & Yuval Heller & Igal Milchtaich, 2020. "Instability of Defection in the Prisoner's Dilemma Under Best Experienced Payoff Dynamics," Papers 2005.05779,, revised Jan 2021.

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