City Research Online

Understanding cooperation in the Prisoner's Dilemma game

Pothos, E. M., Perry, G., Corr, P. J. , Matthew, M. R. & Busemeyer, J. R. (2011). Understanding cooperation in the Prisoner's Dilemma game. Personality and Individual Differences, 51(3), pp. 210-215. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2010.05.002


In the standard one-shot Prisoner’s Dilemma game, participants often choose to cooperate, when the optimal strategy is to defect. This puzzling finding has attracted considerable interest both in terms of possible computational frameworks for modeling human judgment, but also regarding the more general debate of human altruism. In this research, we ask how much of human behavior in this task can be explained by a putative bias for cooperative behavior and whether this, in turn, is influenced by personality. We compared performance on the standard task with performance on a matched neutral one; we manipulated the optimal strategy (defect or cooperate); and we manipulated the amount of payoff for responding optimally. Results revealed little evidence for a bias for cooperative behavior, but significant associations with the personality factors of Behavioural Activation System (BAS) Reward Responsivity and Agreeableness were found. These findings are discussed in terms of the attempt to explain judgment in one-shot, Prisoner’s Dilemma tasks with statistical or probabilistic models.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Personality and Individual Differences. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 51, Issue 3, August 2011, Pages 210–215,
Publisher Keywords: Prisoner’s Dilemma game, Personality, Cooperation, Disjunction effect, Reward Responsiveness, Agreeableness
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
PDF - Accepted Version
Download (376kB) | Preview



Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Actions (login required)

Admin Login Admin Login