Prisoner’s Dilemma, Epilogue

{spoiler alert of sorts: best to wait to check out this information until after you’ve watched lecture for Group Processes, Part II}

Some follow-up to the discussion of the Prisoner’s Dilemma and the Golden Balls British TV show from that lecture…

Radiolab did a segment on it and tracked down Nick and Ibrahim. You can find the whole thing here. Skip to the 17:00 minute mark on the audio to pick up the story where we left it and to hear the two contestants’ retroactive take on their interaction. And here’s the youtube clip of the conclusion of the actual show if you want to watch it again:

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7 Responses to Prisoner’s Dilemma, Epilogue

  1. I believe Nick’s strategy is an incredibly clever response to dealing with this sort of “prisoner’s dilemma.” By putting Ibrahim in a situation that made him believe the only way he could win any money was to cooperate, it gave Nick the advantage, essentially allowing him to either choose “steal” as he promised or “split”, leaving him with money in either situation. While there was still the potential that Ibrahim would choose steal regardless of Nick’s persuasion, I know I personally would not want to risk it. Nick clearly utilized the central route to persuasion in his argument which ended up benefitting both participants.

    • Yasie Nejad says:

      I couldn’t agree more. I feel as though Nick was incredibly strategic in this situation. This prisoners dilemma ended up being positive for both Nick and Ibrahim and all in all, both participants felt like they won. It would take a lot of guts for Ibrahim to disregard Nick’s words of wisdom and choose otherwise.

    • Michael Rogalski says:

      The interesting thing about the specific version of the Prisoner’s Dilemma presented by Golden Balls is that the two participants have the opportunity to discuss the situation while it is taking place. In the more classic version, each prisoner must blindly have faith that the other will cooperate if they choose to cooperate themselves. This version of the dilemma allows the two to strategize prior to the outcome. If the host had just told them each to select a strategy without communicating, Ibrahim would most certainly have stolen the money and regardless of whether Nick chose “share” or “steal,” he would have walked away with nothing. I am also left curious as to whether Nick’s tactic would have worked if the two were not face-to-face (i.e. were communicating between two rooms at the end), as Chapter 9 mentions the immediacy of face-to-face interaction as the best avenue through which to foster trust. We will never know what would have happened if the two contestants were playing the game together remotely, but I suspect Ibrahim would have been far less likely to select “share” and walk away a richer man in this situation.

  2. I liked Nick’s approach but I do not know if it would work with other people. Nick was a good actor and came across as sincere and trustworthy. Without this performance I wonder if the same strategy would be possible. If Nick were less emotive or even just a little less sincere I do not think this would have worked. Therefore, I do not think the strategy can be considered an outright solution to the dilemma. If there is no reason to trust Nick then why would Ibrahim believe him.

    • I disagree. I think Nick’s strategy makes trust irrelevant (within the game, obviously Ibrahim has to trust him to split the money after the fact). But by guaranteeing that he’ll pick the steal ball to Ibrahim, he ensures that he’ll either leave the game with all the money or with half of it. In other words, he puts it on Ibrahim to forfeit the money by also choosing “steal” which he would obviously never do.

  3. I think that a really important thing to consider here is the impact of the audience in this situation; not just the audience present physically, but the broader audience watching on their televisions at home. The audience creates incentive for Nick to follow through on his promise to share the money after the game is over (he shares it right away, but that is besides the point). If he had put steal, and he refused to share the money later on, anyone who was watching would judge and scorn him as a greedy and dishonest person. This, I think, is a very important factor to how this all played out. It may have given Ibrahim greater reason to trust that Nick would follow through on his promise.
    Another interesting thing to consider; how did this game impact future games on this show? Future contestants may have learned from Nick’s strategy; were there any cases where both contestants rushed to be the first person to do exactly what Nick did, therefore gaining the upper hand on their opponent. Were there cases where both contestants tried his strategy simultaneously, insisting that they would pick only the steal ball? Or were there cases where one contestant played the game just like Nick, but got screwed in the end when his opponent assumed he would play share regardless and thus picked steal? Nick’s game could have changed the show forever.

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