The Prisoner Dilemma

What is the Prisoner’s Dilemma?

The Prisoners dilemma is a theoretical situation that appears quite often in online games.

The situation is this:
You and a friend have committed a crime and have been caught. You are being held in separate cells so that you cannot communicate with each other. You are both offered a deal by the police and you have to decide what to do independently. Essentially the deal is this.

  • If you confess and your partner denies taking part in the crime, you go free and your partner goes to prison for ten years.
  • If your partner confesses and you deny participating in the crime, you go to prison for ten years and your partner goes free.
  • If you both confess you will serve six years each.
  • If you both deny taking part in the crime, you both go to prison for six months.

(Prisoner’s Dilemma, 2013)


The Outcome

Possibly surprisingly, the most common outcome of this scenario is that both players will confess to the crime. The reason that this is the most common outcome, is than neither of the prisoners know what the other is going to do. Through co-operation, both players could end up with only six months in prison. However, neither person wants to risk staying silent, whilst the other confesses, as they will get a sentence of ten years. So both players confess, as it is the least risky outcome for them.


References

Prisoner’s Dilemma (2013) The Prisoner’s Dilemma [online] Available from: http://www.prisoners-dilemma.com/ [Accessed: 1st Nov 2015]

Investopedia (2013) Prisoner’s Dilemma [online] Accessed: http://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/prisoners-dilemma.asp [Accessed: 1st Nov 2015]

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