The prisoner’s dilemma refers to a situation, wherein an individual has to choose between self-interest and mutual interest.The prisoner’s dilemma is a standard example of a game analyzed in game theory that shows why two completely “rational” individuals might not cooperate, even if it appears that it is in their best interests to do so.
Further examples will make it clear why above stated statement is TRUE in most of the cases.
Two men are arrested by the police on suspicion of committing the same crime. They are questioned by the police in separate rooms. To convict them, the police need testimony from at least one of them. Both are rational, and value their personal freedom more than the other’s. They have two options―to confess or remain silent. If one confesses and the other remains silent, he (who remained silent) will have to serve the full tenure of punishment. On the other hand, if both confess and accuse the other to be a culprit, they’ll share the sentence of imprisonment, that will be lesser than the full term. However, if both remain silent, due to a lack of evidence, the police will have to sentence both to a much lesser period.
The offer is
- If A and B each betray the other, each of them serves 2 years in prison
- If A betrays B but B remains silent, A will be set free and B will serve 3 years in prison (and vice versa)
- If A and B both remain silent, both of them will only serve 1 year in prison (on the lesser charge)
Thus, the best option for suspects is to remain silent and not testify against the other. However, neither of them know what the other will say, and lack of trust and confidence in other accomplice may compel one of them to testify rather than remain silent. They’re faced with this dilemma, since there is a risk of the other partner testifying against if the other one remains mum. If they have mutual trust, it will be easy for them to have a win-win situation by staying mum.
Lets take another example
If two student(A and B) were fighting in class suddenly a Teacher arrives there could be following situations that may come in front of both student A and B.
- If A and B both start explaining who started the fight, there is a chance where equal amount of fine will be imposed on them say ₹1000.
- If A explains who started fight while B remains silent, A will be safe and fine of ₹5000 will be imposed on B. (Vice versa)
- While there could be a possibility when both of them remain silent in front of professor, they will be set free may be with a handshake and a smile :).
It has been observed that due to lack of mutual trust it may result in loss of both on the other hand by accepting their faults or by remaining silent in front of professor they will not be fined.
Real World Examples of this Problem are
- Nation-states stockpiling nuclear weapons.
- Women wearing makeup.
- Nation-states not restricting CO2 emissions.
- Athletes using performance-enhancing drugs.
- VCs bidding for Foursquare.
- Advertisers determining ad budgets.
- Other health-independent hygiene: shaving, deodorant, cutting hair.
- OPEC & the game to control oil prices.
- Over fishing.
- Meaning of Prisoner’s Dilemma With Real-life Examples
- What is a good real-world example of the “prisoner’s dilemma” in recent history?
This article is contributed by Ravi Kant. If you like eLgo Academy and would like to contribute, you can mail your article to firstname.lastname@example.org. See your article appearing on the eLgo Academy page and help other Geeks. Please write comments if you find anything incorrect, or you want to share more information about the topic discussed above.