Speaking the same language: The cooperative effects of labeling in the prisoner's dilemma

Chen Bo Zhong*, Jeffrey Loewenstein, J. Keith Murnighan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


The long history of experimental research on the prisoner's dilemma (PD) has primarily used a methodology that eliminates cues to participants. Researchers, however, have interpreted participants' choices as cooperative or competitive. The authors' research shows that giving participants researchers' interpretive labels of the game, the choices, and the outcomes, compared to no labels, led to significantly more cooperation; labels such as trust and cooperate/defect augmented cooperation even more. A second experiment found that independent evaluations of the labels led to perceptions that were similar to individuals' choices in the first experiment. These results suggest that we might need to rethink the import of many of our previous findings and their applicability to everyday interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)431-456
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Conflict Resolution
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2007


  • Cooperation
  • Labeling
  • Prisoner's dilemma game
  • Trust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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