The prisoners’ dilemma and the mini-max strategy by Charles Warner The Prisoners’ Dilemma


The Prisoners’ Dilemma and Mini-max



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The Prisoners’ Dilemma and Mini-max

The point of the Prisoners’ Dilemma game is that if both had not been greedy and had not tried to maximize their own advantage (one-year sentence) at the expense of the other, and had cooperated silently, they both would have been better off (lower right-hand box in the Payoff Matrix). If both had pursued a mini-max strategy and accepted the second best conditions (three years by both holding out), both would have been out seven years sooner.

When making any strategy decision it is a good idea to use a decision tree and a payoff matrix; because these decision tools can help you visualize and analyze your alternatives. See “Game Theory – Programming” and “Game Theory – Sales” in the

“Papers by Charles Warner” link on www.charleswarner.us for examples of how to use decision trees and payoff matrices in business strategy situations.



Also, when making strategy decisions it is best to employ a mini-max strategy. Simply stated, “Don’t get greedy.”


i Avandish Dixit and Barry Nalebuff. 1991. Thinking Strategically. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

ii Avinish Dixit and Barry Nalebuff. 1991. Thinking Strategically. New York: W.W. Norton. Pp. 178-179

iii Ibid.

iv William Poundstone. 1992. The Prisoner’s Dilemma. New York: Doubleday. p. 62.

v Ibid.

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