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ERIC Number: EJ980450
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Jul
Pages: 15
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 13
ISSN: ISSN-0022-5002
Commitment and Self-Control in a Prisoner's Dilemma Game
Locey, Matthew L.; Rachlin, Howard
Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, v98 n1 p89-103 Jul 2012
Humans often make seemingly irrational choices in situations of conflict between a particular smaller-sooner reinforcer and a more abstract, temporally extended, but larger reinforcer. In two experiments, the extent to which the availability of commitment responses--self-imposed restrictions on future choices--might improve self-control in such situations was investigated. Participants played a prisoner's dilemma game against a computer that played a tit-for-tat strategy--cooperating after a participant cooperated, defecting after a participant defected. Defecting produced a small-immediate reinforcer (consisting of points convertible to gift cards) whereas cooperating increased the amount of subsequent reinforcers, yielding a greater overall reinforcer rate. Participants were normally free to cooperate or defect on each trial. Additionally, they could choose to make a commitment response that forced their choice for the ensuing five trials. For some participants, the commitment response forced cooperation; for others, it forced defection. Most participants, with either commitment response available, chose to commit repeatedly despite a minor point loss for doing so. After extended exposure to these contingencies, the commit-to-cooperate group cooperated significantly more than a control group (with no commitment available). The commit-to defect group cooperated significantly less than the control group. When both commitment alternatives were simultaneously available--one for cooperation and one for defection--cooperation commitment was strongly preferred. In Experiment 2, the commitment alternative was removed at the end of the session; gains in cooperation, relative to the control group, were not sustained in the absence of the self-imposed behavioral scaffold. (Contains 7 figures.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: New York