IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Higher Intelligence Groups Have Higher Cooperation Rates in the Repeated Prisoner's Dilemma


  • Proto, Eugenio

    () (University of Warwick)

  • Rustichini, Aldo

    () (University of Minnesota)

  • Sofianos, Andis

    () (University of Warwick)


Intelligence affects social outcomes of groups. A systematic study of the link is provided in an experiment where two groups of subjects with different levels of intelligence, but otherwise similar, play a repeated prisoner's dilemma. The initial cooperation rates are similar, it increases in the groups with higher intelligence to reach almost full cooperation, while declining in the groups with lower intelligence. The difference is produced by the cumulation of small but persistent differences in the response to past cooperation of the partner. In higher intelligence subjects, cooperation after the initial stages is immediate and becomes the default mode, defection instead requires more time. For lower intelligence groups this difference is absent. Cooperation of higher intelligence subjects is payoff sensitive, thus not automatic: in a treatment with lower continuation probability there is no difference between different intelligence groups.

Suggested Citation

  • Proto, Eugenio & Rustichini, Aldo & Sofianos, Andis, 2014. "Higher Intelligence Groups Have Higher Cooperation Rates in the Repeated Prisoner's Dilemma," IZA Discussion Papers 8499, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp8499

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Stahl Dale O. & Wilson Paul W., 1995. "On Players' Models of Other Players: Theory and Experimental Evidence," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 218-254, July.
    2. David K. Levine & Drew Fudenberg, 2006. "A Dual-Self Model of Impulse Control," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1449-1476, December.
    3. Andreoni, James A & Miller, John H, 1993. "Rational Cooperation in the Finitely Repeated Prisoner's Dilemma: Experimental Evidence," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 103(418), pages 570-585, May.
    4. Oechssler, Jörg & Roider, Andreas & Schmitz, Patrick W., 2009. "Cognitive abilities and behavioral biases," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 72(1), pages 147-152, October.
    5. Costa-Gomes, Miguel & Crawford, Vincent P & Broseta, Bruno, 2001. "Cognition and Behavior in Normal-Form Games: An Experimental Study," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(5), pages 1193-1235, September.
    6. Benjamin Golub & Matthew O. Jackson, 2012. "Network Structure and the Speed of Learning Measuring Homophily Based on its Consequences," Annals of Economics and Statistics, GENES, issue 107-108, pages 33-48.
    7. Garett Jones & W. Joel Schneider, 2010. "Iq In The Production Function: Evidence From Immigrant Earnings," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 48(3), pages 743-755, July.
    8. Selten, Reinhard & Stoecker, Rolf, 1986. "End behavior in sequences of finite Prisoner's Dilemma supergames A learning theory approach," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 47-70, March.
    9. 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.
    10. David Gill & Victoria Prowse, 2016. "Cognitive Ability, Character Skills, and Learning to Play Equilibrium: A Level-k Analysis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 124(6), pages 1619-1676.
    11. 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.
    12. James J. Heckman & Jora Stixrud & Sergio Urzua, 2006. "The Effects of Cognitive and Noncognitive Abilities on Labor Market Outcomes and Social Behavior," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 411-482, July.
    13. Neal, Derek A & Johnson, William R, 1996. "The Role of Premarket Factors in Black-White Wage Differences," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(5), pages 869-895, October.
    14. James Heckman & Rodrigo Pinto & Peter Savelyev, 2013. "Understanding the Mechanisms through Which an Influential Early Childhood Program Boosted Adult Outcomes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(6), pages 2052-2086, October.
    15. B. Douglas Bernheim & Antonio Rangel, 2004. "Addiction and Cue-Triggered Decision Processes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1558-1590, December.
    16. 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.
    17. Becker, Gary S, 1973. "A Theory of Marriage: Part I," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(4), pages 813-846, July-Aug..
    18. repec:adr:anecst:y:2012:i:107-108 is not listed on IDEAS
    19. Rubinstein, Ariel, 1986. "Finite automata play the repeated prisoner's dilemma," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 83-96, June.
    20. Gary Charness & Aldo Rustichini & Jeroen van de Ven, 2011. "Self-Confidence and Strategic Deterrence," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 11-151/1, Tinbergen Institute.
    21. Pedro Dal Bó, 2005. "Cooperation under the Shadow of the Future: Experimental Evidence from Infinitely Repeated Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(5), pages 1591-1604, December.
    22. Patrick Legros & Andrew F. Newman, 2002. "Monotone Matching in Perfect and Imperfect Worlds," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(4), pages 925-942.
    23. Thomas R. Palfrey & Howard Rosenthal, 1994. "Repeated Play, Cooperation and Coordination: An Experimental Study," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 61(3), pages 545-565.
    24. Daniel J. Benjamin & Sebastian A. Brown & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2013. "Who Is ‘Behavioral’? Cognitive Ability And Anomalous Preferences," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11(6), pages 1231-1255, December.
    25. Gary Charness & Aldo Rustichini & Jeroen van de Ven, 2013. "Self-Confidence and Strategic Behavior," CESifo Working Paper Series 4517, CESifo Group Munich.
    26. 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.
    27. Jones, Garett, 2008. "Are smarter groups more cooperative? Evidence from prisoner's dilemma experiments, 1959-2003," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 68(3-4), pages 489-497, December.
    28. Stahl, Dale II, 1991. "The graph of Prisoners' Dilemma supergame payoffs as a function of the discount factor," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 3(3), pages 368-384, August.
    29. repec:adr:anecst:y:2012:i:107-108:p:2 is not listed on IDEAS
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Where do pro-social institutions come from?
      by pseudoerasmus in Pseudoerasmus on 2015-10-04 05:01:30
    2. Cooperative smarts
      by Eric Crampton in Offsetting Behaviour on 2015-11-02 14:21:00


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Allred, Sarah & Duffy, Sean & Smith, John, 2016. "Cognitive load and strategic sophistication," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 125(C), pages 162-178.
    2. repec:eee:jeborg:v:142:y:2017:i:c:p:79-91 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Charness, Gary & Rigotti, Luca & Rustichini, Aldo, 2016. "Social surplus determines cooperation rates in the one-shot Prisoner's Dilemma," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 113-124.
    4. Duffy, Sean & Naddeo, JJ & Owens, David & Smith, John, 2016. "Cognitive load and mixed strategies: On brains and minimax," MPRA Paper 71878, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Nobuyuki Hanaki & Nicolas Jacquemet & Stéphane Luchini & Adam Zylbersztejn, 2016. "Fluid intelligence and cognitive reflection in a strategic environment: evidence from dominance-solvable games," PSE - Labex "OSE-Ouvrir la Science Economique" hal-01359231, HAL.
    6. Al-Ubaydli, Omar & Jones, Garett & Weel, Jaap, 2016. "Average player traits as predictors of cooperation in a repeated prisoner's dilemma," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 50-60.

    More about this item


    repeated prisoner dilemma; cooperation; intelligence;

    JEL classification:

    • 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

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp8499. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mark Fallak). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.