No strategy can win in the repeated prisoner's dilemma: Linking game theory and computer simulations

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Abstract

Computer simulations are regularly used for studying the evolution of strategies in repeated games. These simulations rarely pay attention to game theoretical results that can illuminate the data analysis or the questions being asked. Results from evolutionary game theory imply that for every Nash equilibrium, there are sequences of mutants that would destabilize them. If strategies are not limited to a finite set, populations move between a variety of Nash equilibria with different levels of cooperation. This instability is inescapable, regardless of how strategies are represented. We present algorithms that show that simulations do agree with the theory. This implies that cognition itself may only have limited impact on the cycling dynamics. We argue that the role of mutations or exploration is more important in determining levels of cooperation.

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García, J., & van Veelen, M. (2018). No strategy can win in the repeated prisoner’s dilemma: Linking game theory and computer simulations. Frontiers Robotics AI, 5(AUG). https://doi.org/10.3389/frobt.2018.00102

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