Translucent Players: Explaining Cooperative Behavior in Social Dilemmas

Valerio Capraro
Joseph Y. Halpern
(Cornell University)

In the last few decades, numerous experiments have shown that humans do not always behave so as to maximize their material payoff. Cooperative behavior when non-cooperation is a dominant strategy (with respect to the material payoffs) is particularly puzzling. Here we propose a novel approach to explain cooperation, assuming what Halpern and Pass call translucent players. Typically, players are assumed to be opaque, in the sense that a deviation by one player in a normal-form game does not affect the strategies used by other players. But a player may believe that if he switches from one strategy to another, the fact that he chooses to switch may be visible to the other players. For example, if he chooses to defect in Prisoner's Dilemma, the other player may sense his guilt. We show that by assuming translucent players, we can recover many of the regularities observed in human behavior in well-studied games such as Prisoner's Dilemma, Traveler's Dilemma, Bertrand Competition, and the Public Goods game.

In R Ramanujam: Proceedings Fifteenth Conference on Theoretical Aspects of Rationality and Knowledge (TARK 2015), Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA, June 4-6, 2015, Electronic Proceedings in Theoretical Computer Science 215, pp. 114–126.
The full version of the paper is also on arxiv at
Published: 23rd June 2016.

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