Business Guide

training   »  decision making   »  prisoner's dilemma

How To Solve The Prisoner's Dilemma

        posted by , April 09, 2013

It's the best known example of a hard problem in game theory.

The prisoner's dilemma is a classic tale that can be used to model decision making, negotiation and business challenges such as sustainability.

The Prisoner's Dilemma

Two members of a gang are arrested by the police. They are brought to separate interrogation rooms. The police have little evidence but are hoping one of the suspects will talk. The crime has a minimum 10 year sentence, they offer both suspects 1 year in exchange for testimony if they are the first to talk.

It's in the interests of both suspects to keep quiet. If they both keep quiet they will be free within a few hours.

The prisoner's dilemma happens frequently in real life. Often the prisoners talk and end up going to jail because they don't trust each other to keep quiet.

Prisoner's dilemma is a useful analogy for decision making, negotiation, politics and business. In many cases, people make bad decisions because they don't trust others not to do the same.

Prisoner's Dilemma & Sustainability

The prisoner's dilemma scales. If you arrested 500 members of a gang they would all go free if they all keep quiet. The more members you add to the gang the more likely at least one will talk.

The prisoner's dilemma can be used to model political problems such as sustainability.

With modern technology, it only takes one country to harm the global environment. For example, one nation can easily destroy threatened fish stocks in the oceans.

Let's say all nations sign an agreement to keep fishing of tuna to a sustainable level. If they all keep the agreement they can all keep fishing tuna forever. However, if one nation breaks the agreement an entire species can go extinct.

Logical Solution

Logically, the prisoner's dilemma can be solved with a strategy known as Superrationality.

Communication Solution

The prisoners dilemma highlights the importance of communication and socialization to decision making.

If the prisoners could talk to each other, the dilemma disappears — they'd simply reach an agreement with each other to keep quiet.

The more we discuss common problems such as sustainability, the more likely a rational decision we will reached.

3 Shares Google Twitter Facebook

Related Articles

Decision Making
Decision making tips, strategy and techniques.

Planning your learning strategy.

A list of training options for your project management career plan.

The art of BATNA based negotiation strategy.

How to build a creative, productive and satisfied team.

Recently on Simplicable

The 5 Levels of Leadership Bliss

posted by Anna Mar
The 5 fundamental leadership levels. Most leaders never get beyond level 2.

Decision Making: How To Solve The Mexican Standoff

posted by Anna Mar
If you've ever seen an action movie this decision making dilemma will be familiar.

50 Change Management Training Ideas

posted by Anna Mar
Change management training comes in many shapes and forms ...

200 Business Adjectives With Punch

posted by Anna Mar
If you're really trying to achieve something — you'll want to choose the best words for the job. The following list of positive adjectives may serve as a useful reference.


about     contact     sitemap     privacy     terms of service     copyright