Cooperating when You Know Your Outcomes will Differ

J. Keith Murnighan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


This article presents a new form of prisoner's dilemma (PD) game called asymmetric dilemmas (ADs). The underlying structure of ADs conforms to the requirements of a PD game, but mutually cooperative choices by the two parties give them known, different outcomes. Similarly, mutually noncooperative choices also give them different outcomes. This article summarizes the results of a series of experiments on ADs and presents the theoretical rationale derived from those findings. The results question the generality of Axelrod's confidence in the general utility of the tit-for-tat strategy and show that asymmetries are best solved via systems of complex alternation. Finally, the games and the theory can be easily adapted for classroom or training exercises on complex strategic planning in negotiations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)463-475
Number of pages13
JournalSimulation & Gaming
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1991


  • asymmetric dilemma
  • cooperation
  • leverage
  • prisoner's dilemma
  • regret
  • strategy
  • tit-for-tat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
  • Computer Science Applications


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