NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Friend or Foe? A Natural Experiment of the Prisoner's Dilemma

John A. List

NBER Working Paper No. 12097
Issued in March 2006
NBER Program(s):   PE

This study examines data drawn from the game show Friend or Foe?, which is similar to the classic prisoner’s dilemma tale: partnerships are endogenously determined, players work together to earn money, after which, they play a one-shot prisoner’s dilemma game over large stakes: varying from $200 to (potentially) more than $22,000. If one were to conduct such an experiment in the laboratory, the cost to gather the data would be well over $350,000. The data reveal several interesting insights; perhaps most provocatively, they suggest that even though the game is played in front of an audience of millions of viewers, there is some evidence consistent with a model of discrimination. The observed patterns of social discrimination are unanticipated, however. For example, there is evidence consistent with the notion that certain populations have a general “distaste” for older participants.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w12097

Published: List, John A. "Friend Or Foe? A Natural Experiment Of The Prisoner's Dilemma," Review of Economics and Statistics, 2006, v88(3,Aug), 463-471. citation courtesy of

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