The robustness of cognitively simple judgment in ecologies of Prisoner's Dilemma games

John Orbell*, Audun Runde, Tom Morikawa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Various authors have pointed to the fitness advantage from a capacity to recognize others' intentions in prisoner's dilemma games, yet cognitive mechanisms supporting such perceptiveness might be no more efficient than the simple and presumably inexpensive rule to 'assume that potential partners have the same behavioral intentions as yourself'. Laboratory findings have shown that this projecting heuristic can support the evolution of cooperative behavior absent perceptiveness, but that rule might be vulnerable to invasion by perceptive mutations. This paper shows that perceptive mutants are more likely to destroy an entire ecology of projectors (that would otherwise survive and prosper) than to successfully invade it, while projecting mutants have considerable success invading a population of perceptives. Mutant projectors' success happens when a cooperative ecology is created for them by the initial success of perceptive cooperators; within such an ecology, cooperative projectors have a competitive advantage over cooperative perceptives. Critical parameters are (1) the incidence of cooperativeness in the population and (2) the price of perceptiveness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-97
Number of pages17
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1996 Jan 1
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive mechanisms
  • Ecologies
  • Prisoner's dilemma games

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modelling and Simulation
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Applied Mathematics


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