Enunciated in 1950 by Tanzania Email List Albert W. Tucker at Princeton, the prisoner’s dilemma presents two accomplices (to a crime) held in two separate cells with no communication possible. Their options are: If we look at things from a personal point of view, we quickly realize that our interest is to confess whatever the choice of our accomplice. Indeed, if our accomplice also confesses we will only have 5 years in prison instead of 10. And if our accomplice does not confess, we would come out free against 6 months if we decided to keep silent. The catch? The interest of our accomplice is the same as ours, which implies that he also has an interest in speaking.

Without possible communication with our accomplice, the temptation to avoid prison and the fear that our accomplice will betray us and therefore receive the maximum penalty will logically push us to confess. It is therefore highly probable that we end up in the first box of our matrix: 5 years in prison each. This outcome is, however, far from the optimum that we could reach by both being silent. Now, let’s look at things from the point of view of the criminal organization to which we belong with our accomplice. Its interest is to minimize losses, so that we both keep quiet. (Hence the omerta, a rule that ultimately avoids reprisals and condemnations.)

The prisoner’s dilemma

By repeating this situation an indefinite number of times, the game changes. Indeed, it is no longer a question here of doing as well as possible once, but of building a long-term win-win relationship. The reasoning changes completely since the threat of revenge on the part of the accomplice exceeds the temptation to maximize his gains. The iteration of this experience pushes our decision-making towards cooperation to maximize our long-term gains (and not get stuck in a war of I denounce you denounce me which draws a lose-lose horizon). Our interest therefore shifts towards the need to establish a stable relationship with his accomplice and therefore to be silent.


Belonging to a common organization sharing the same interests and guaranteeing the application of the established rules is thus a first avenue for cooperation during negotiations. Cooperation also takes on another meaning since by repeating the dilemma we can establish a strategy based on the analysis of the decisions of the other: does he confess permanently? does he tend to be silent and take revenge if betrayed? This then allows us to establish a strategy that will eventually allow us to logically arrive at the group optimum. Optimizing your strategy in this case involves: Respect the give-and-take or the simple principle of if we don’t give anything, we have nothing

A predetermined outcome

Measure your revenge: one hit for one hit and not ten hits for one Have a strategy easily understandable by the accomplice to establish communication This strategy is qualified eye for an eye with forgiveness since it seeks to balance the betrayals then to move on to something else in order to optimize the overall gains and to tend towards the solution 6 months each. When we are looking for something, we all want the other side to cooperate. However, as in the prisoner’s dilemma, we are faced with the choice of cooperating and thus potentially being taken in by the opposing party or of competing which risks damaging the future relationship.

Finally, it seems that the best solution is to initiate cooperation and wait for the reaction of the opposing party. If it also cooperates, you can then quietly continue the exchanges until reaching the optimal situation for both parties. If the latter is on the contrary aggressive and seeks to dominate the exchanges, you must place yourself in the same posture to make him understand that he will not achieve his ends in this way and thus push him to change his attitude. In this situation, either you will manage to provoke a reversal opening a constructive negotiation, or you will remain blocked in an impossible situation where all camp on their positions.

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