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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A Continuous Dilemma ∗

  • Author(s): Friedman, Daniel
  • Oprea, Ryan
  • et al.

We study prisoner’s dilemmas played in continuous time with flow payoffs over 60 seconds. In most cases, the median rate of mutual cooperation rises to 90% or more. Control sessions with 8-time repeated matchings achieve less than half as much cooperation, and cooperation rates approach zero in one-shot control sessions. In follow-up sessions with a variable number of subperiods, cooperation rates increase nearly linearly as the grid size decreases and, with one-second subperiods, they approach the level seen in continuous sessions. Our data support a strand of theory that explains how the capacity to respond rapidly stabilizes cooperation and destabilizes defection in the prisoner’s dilemma.

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