A quantitative description of the transition between intuitive altruism and rational deliberation in iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma experiments

Gallotti, Riccardo; Grujic, Jelena
Scientific Reports 9, 17046 (2019)

What is intuitive: pro-social or anti-social behaviour? To answer this fundamental question, recent studies analyse decision times in game theory experiments under the assumption that intuitive decisions are fast and that deliberation is slow. These analyses keep track of the average time taken to make decisions under different conditions. Lacking any knowledge of the underlying dynamics, such simplistic approach might however lead to erroneous interpretations. Here we model the cognitive basis of strategic cooperative decision making using the Drift Diffusion Model to discern between deliberation and intuition and describe the evolution of the decision making in iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma experiments. We find that, although initially people’s intuitive decision is to cooperate, rational deliberation quickly becomes dominant over an initial intuitive bias towards cooperation, which is fostered by positive interactions as much as frustrated by a negative one. However, this initial pro-social tendency is resilient, as after a pause it resets to the same initial value. These results illustrate the new insight that can be achieved thanks to a quantitative modelling of human behavior.

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