info prev up next book cdrom email home

Prisoner's Dilemma

A problem in Game Theory first discussed by A. Tucker. Suppose each of two prisoners $A$ and $B$, who are not allowed to communicate with each other, is offered to be set free if he implicates the other. If neither implicates the other, both will receive the usual sentence. However, if the prisoners implicate each other, then both are presumed guilty and granted harsh sentences.

A Dilemma arises in deciding the best course of action in the absence of knowledge of the other prisoner's decision. Each prisoner's best strategy would appear to be to turn the other in (since if $A$ makes the worst-case assumption that $B$ will turn him in, then $B$ will walk free and $A$ will be stuck in jail if he remains silent). However, if the prisoners turn each other in, they obtain the worst possible outcome for both.

See also Dilemma, Tit-for-Tat


Axelrod, R. The Evolution of Cooperation New York: BasicBooks, 1985.

Goetz, P. ``Phil's Good Enough Complexity Dictionary.''

© 1996-9 Eric W. Weisstein