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James Brody June 16th, 2010 05:11 PM

Obot Kicks Butt & Finds Strong Reciprocity
Tit-for-Tat is a mathematical toy that’s dominated some aspects of how scientists view social cooperation. T4T can be described in the language of a game called “Prisoners Dilemma”: That is, two jailed cons are interrogated separately. The outcomes can be 1) release and a reward for ratting out the other player, 2) fines and jail if you are the one ratted out, or 3) a brief time in jail if neither one rats on the other.

This situation usually produces loyalty between the cons. Neither of them rats to the cops!

The math is such that loyalty (cooperation) pays better than betrayal in sustained relationships. Betrayal only works well and only for one partner during one-time deals (e.g., car sales, land swaps, and your first transactions with a mechanic, repairman, or some women).

And major strategic advantages ride with the player who knows that things are ending but the other poor fool expects the relationship to go on forever. (Talk to your mother and your lawyer before telling your husband that you are not only leaving him but also leaving him poor! Buy her dinner and watch her run from your car into her apartment, locking the door as she passes through it!)

In social exchanges, you experience “moral indignation” when you are cheated: that is, you “do” but are not “done to” in return. Skip your donation to the collection plate, give a cheapie present, or buy your wife a vacuum cleaner instead of flowers, dinner, and a ring and watch the blood boil around you.

There’s a times of social collapse, we punish sell-outs...those people who cease their help while carrying our secrets to the other side. And, “strong reciprocity” occurs when we punish not only the defector but also anyone in our group who fails to punish him!

Can you imagine the heat now traveling through layers of the Democrat party?

Poundstone, W. (1992) Prisoner’s Dilemma: John von Neumann, Game Theory, and the Puzzle of the Bomb. NY: Anchor.

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