Instability of defection in the prisoner's dilemma under best experienced payoff dynamics

Srinivas Arigapudi, Yuval Heller, Igal Milchtaich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


We study population dynamics under which each revising agent tests each action k times, with each trial being against a newly drawn opponent, and chooses the action whose mean payoff was highest during the testing phase. When k=1, defection is globally stable in the prisoner's dilemma. By contrast, when k>1 we show that, if the gains from defection are not too large, there exists a globally stable state in which agents cooperate with probability between 28% and 50%. Next, we characterize stability of strict equilibria in general games. Our results demonstrate that the empirically plausible case of k>1 can yield qualitatively different predictions than the case k=1 commonly studied in the literature.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105174
JournalJournal of Economic Theory
StatePublished - Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We wish to thank Luis R. Izquierdo, Segismundo S. Izquierdo, Ron Peretz, William Sandholm and two anonymous referees for various helpful comments and suggestions. YH and SA gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the European Research Council (starting grant 677057 ). SA gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Sandwich research fellowship of Bar-Ilan University and the Israeli Council of Higher Education , and the financial support of the Fine fellowship of the Technion .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Inc.


  • Best experienced payoff dynamics
  • Cooperation
  • Evolutionary stability
  • Learning
  • Sampling equilibrium


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