Freakonomics allows one question for Prisoner’s Dilemma – Does it Matter?

Dubner at the NYTimes Freakonomics Blog asks the following question to his readers given  prisoner’s dilemma problem:

Pretend for a minute that you have done something to put yourself in jeopardy and are facing a real-life Prisoner’s Dilemma. Now pretend additionally that you get to choose your partner in the dilemma. There are three people to choose from. You cannot see or talk directly to the three people, but you are allowed to ask one question of each of the three people to help make your decision.

What is the one question you’d ask?

Apparently, selected winners will receive material rewards for their achievement.  However, I am not sure how any question I asked would be useful.  Given the scenario, my optimal strategy is to defect no matter what, thus, I would want to pick the most irrational (or trusting?) person of the three.  At best, I would want some sort of question that frames their subsequent action as rational (despite it being ultimately irrational).  Failing some sort of Jedi mind trick, I need to gauge my potential partner’s rationality – do I ask age, education, or other demographic information? 

What question elicits the answer to the question: "do you play sub-optimal strategies?"

About Michael A. Allen

Michael is an Assistant Professor in Political Science at Boise State University with a focus in International Relations, Comparative Politics, and Methodology (quantitative and formal). His work includes issues related to military basing abroad, asymmetric relations, cooperation, and conflict. He received his Ph.D from Binghamton University in 2011.

One Reply to “Freakonomics allows one question for Prisoner’s Dilemma – Does it Matter?”

  1. Have you ever played this game before?
    Don’t you think nations should stop fighting and just get along? This would allow me to find out who values cooperation over defection, and will also make the people think about the “value” of cooperation.

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