A Caltech Library Service

Increasing Cooperation in Prisoner's Dilemmas by Establishing a Precedent of Efficiency in Coordination

Camerer, Colin F. and Knez, Mark (2000) Increasing Cooperation in Prisoner's Dilemmas by Establishing a Precedent of Efficiency in Coordination. Social Science Working Paper, 1080. California Institute of Technology , Pasadena, CA. (Unpublished)

[img] PDF (sswp 1080 - Jan. 2000) - Submitted Version
See Usage Policy.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


Coordination games have multiple Nash equilibria (i.e., sets of strategies which are best responses to one another). In ``weak-link" coordination games players choose a number 1-7. Their payoff is increasing in the minimum number (or weakest link) and decreasing in the difference between their number and the minimum. Choosing 7 is an ``efficient" equilibrium because it gives everybody a higher payoff than any other coordinated choice. Higher-payoff equilibria are riskier, however, so the game expresses the tradeoff between group efficiency and personal risk present in many social and organizational settings. We tested whether choosing efficiently in a weak-link game increases cooperative play in a subsequent prisoner's dilemma (PD) game. This cross-game transfer resembles transfer of cooperative norms in small firms (which are more like coordination games than PDs) as firms grow larger and become like PDs. In two experiments, if a group of players share a history of playing the weak-link game efficiently, that efficiency precedent can transfer to a subsequent PD game, improving the level of cooperativeness. The effect of transfer is much larger in magnitude (increasing cooperation from 15-30% to 71%) than the effects of most variables in previous PD studies. However, the transfer effect depends on descriptive similarity of strategies in the two games, since it largely disappears when the strategies are numbered differently in the weak-link game and the PD.

Item Type:Report or Paper (Working Paper)
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription ItemPublished Version
Camerer, Colin F.0000-0003-4049-1871
Additional Information:Helpful comments were received from Ron Burt, James Coleman, Chip Heath, Rod Kramer, one referee and both editors, participants at the Stanford GSB conference on Strategy and Organization, October 1994, and participants at the University of Chicago GSB Social Organization of Competition Workshop, January 24, 1995. Published as Knez, Marc and Camerer, Colin (2000) Increasing Cooperation in Prisoner's Dilemmas by Establishing a Precedent of Efficiency in Coordination Games. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 82 (2). pp. 194-216.
Group:Social Science Working Papers
Series Name:Social Science Working Paper
Issue or Number:1080
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20171106-144605221
Persistent URL:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:82999
Deposited By: Jacquelyn Bussone
Deposited On:06 Nov 2017 23:11
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 19:01

Repository Staff Only: item control page