*Prisoner’s Dilemma* is a game structure that studies cooperation and competition between two people. Game theorists have extensively analyzed this structure and game designers have created many versions based on its basic mechanics. Here’s our jolt version of prisoner’s dilemma.

## Synopsis

Two participants independently and secretly choose the head or the tail of a coin. Depending on their choices, they earn points. The game is played for three rounds with the score values doubling each round.

## Purpose

To explore causes and outcomes of cooperation and competition.

## Training Topics

- Working with others
- Cooperation and competition
- Trust and betrayal

## Participants

**Minimum:** 3

**Maximum:** Any number, divided into triads

**Best:** 12 to 30

## Time

3 minutes for the activity

10 minutes for debriefing

## Supplies and Equipment

- Paper (to keep score)
- Pencils
- A bunch of coins
- Timer
- Whistle

## Flow

**Organize triads and assign roles.** Divide the participants into groups of three. Assign the role of the Score Keeper (SK) to one of the members in each triad. The other two are players.

**Distribute the supplies.** Give a pencil and a sheet of paper to each SK. Give a coin to each of the other two players.

**Explain the activity.** The two players will secretly choose either the head or the tail of their coin and show it to the SK. The SK will calculate the score for each player, based on what the two players chose, and record the score.

**Announce the payoffs for Round 1. **Explain this formula:

- If both players choose the
, each player gets 1 point.*head* - If one player chooses the
and the other player chooses the*tail*, the person who chose the*head*gets 2 points and the person who chose the*tail*gets 0 points.*head* - If both players choose the
, each player gets 0 points.*tail*

**Conduct Round 1. **Follow this sequence:

- Ask the players to choose one side of the coin (either
or*head*) and secretly show it to the SK.*tail* - Ask the SK to announce the choices and record the scores (0, 1, or 2) for each of the two players.
- Ask the SK to announce the scores of the two players.

**Announce the payoffs for Round 2.** Explain that these payoffs are double those of the previous round:

- If both players choose the
, each player gets 2 points.*head* - If one player chooses the
and the other player chooses the*tail*, the person who chose the*head*gets 4 points and the person who chose the*tail*gets 0 points.*head* - If both players choose the
, each player gets 0 points.*tail*

**Conduct Round 2.** Follow this sequence:

- Ask the players to choose one side of the coin (either
or*head*) and secretly show it to the SK.*tail* - Ask the SK to announce the choices and record the scores (0, 2, or 4) for each of the two players.
- Ask the SK to announce the current total scores of the two players.

**Announce the payoffs for Round 3. **Explain that these payoffs are double those of the previous round:

- If both players choose the
, each player gets 4 points.*head* - If one player chooses the
and the other player chooses the*tail*, the person who chose the*head*gets 8 points and the person who chose the*tail*gets 0 points.*head* - If both players choose the
, each player gets 0 points.*tail*

**Conduct Round 3.** Follow this sequence:

- Ask the players to choose one side of the coin (either
or*head*) and secretly show it to the SK.*tail* - Ask the SK to announce the choices and record the scores (0, 4, or 8) for each of the two players.
- Ask the SK to announce the current total scores of the two players.

**Conclude the activity.** Ask the SKs to identify the player with the highest score. Identify the highest scorers among all triads and congratulate them.

## Debriefing

Ask the participants how they feel about the “winners”. Also ask everyone to guess how the “losers” in each triad feel about the “winners”.

Explain that choosing the head is a cooperative move. Ask the participants how they felt when they chose the head. Also ask them how they felt when the other player chose the head and when both players chose the head.

Explain that choosing the tail is a competitive move. Ask the participants to predict how many times the tail was selected by the players. Ask the SKs to provide the correct data.

Ask the participants how they felt when they chose the tail. Also ask them how they felt when the other player chose the tail and when both players chose the tail.

The highest possible final score for an individual player is 14. To obtain this score, the player must have chosen the tail in all three rounds and the other player must have consistently chosen the head. In conflict management terminology, this behavior is called *accommodation*.

Find out if any player had a final score of 14. Conduct a discussion of accommodation as applied to their behavior. Also, ask and discuss these questions about accommodation in real life:

- Under what conditions is accommodation an effective strategy?
- What are the advantages of accommodation? What are the disadvantages?

Ask the SKs to check the final totals of the two players. If both players scored 7 points, they must have consistently selected the head during all three rounds. In conflict management terminology this behavior is called *collaboration*.

Find out if any pair of players both scored 7 points. Conduct a discussion of collaboration as applied to their behavior. Also ask and discuss these questions about collaboration in real life:

- Under what conditions is collaboration an effective strategy?
- What are the advantages of collaboration? What are the disadvantages?

Ask the participants to identify the best strategy for one player to encourage collaboration on the part of the other player.

## Learning Points

- People approach most human interactions in games and in real life from either a cooperative or competitive stance.
- All interpersonal interactions influence the way results are obtained and relationships are maintained.
- Winning a game may sometimes have a negative impact on maintaining the relationship.
- Competition may sometimes result in a mutual loss.
- Accommodation may make the other person achieve positive results—but at your expense.
- Collaboration may help both people achieve positive and equal results.