Cheaters (and now diehard punishers) never prosper

As AP reports it “Screaming sports coaches and cutthroat tycoons have it wrong: Nice guys do finish first, a new study suggests.”

The current issue of Nature summarizes the results of a Harvard study with 100 college students from Boston playing prisoner’s dilemma game.
The AP reported: “Common game theory has held that punishment makes two equals cooperate. But when people compete in repeated games, punishment fails to deliver, said study author Martin Nowak. He is director of the evolutionary dynamics lab at Harvard where the study was conducted….”On the individual level, we find that those who use punishments are the losers,” Nowak said his experiments found.” And those who punished the most, did the worst.

Nowak and all found that none of the top 5 finishers used costly punishment and the use of costly punishment didn’t help groups overall. Effective players used a *tit for tat* strategy, much as Axelrod found earlier. Punishment may force others to do what you want, but researchers found that the situation could rapidly deteriorate.

See article on their story “It Pays to be Nice.”

And a related article in Nature called *Punisher Pays* by M. Milinski and B. Rockenbach. Abstract: The tendency of humans to punish perceived free-loaders, even at a cost to themselves, is an evolutionary puzzle: punishers perish, and those who benefit the most are those who have never punished at all.

Journal Nature

Play prisoner’s dilemma (without Nowak’s costly punishment) against a computer.


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