UK Game Show Golden Balls: A New Solution to the Prisoner’s Dilemma

Several years ago, Felix Oberholzer-Gee, Joel Waldfogel and Matthew W. White, published a fascinating empirical article about the prisoner’s dilemma game embedded in the short-lived U.S. game show “Friend or Foe.”  Their core findings:

Using data from two seasons of a television game show, we provide evidence about how individuals implement conditionally cooperative preferences. We show that (1) contestants forgo large sums of money to be cooperative, (2) players cooperate at heightened levels when their opponents are predictably cooperative, and (3) players whose observable characteristics predict less cooperation fare worse (monetarily) over time, as opponents avoid cooperating with them. 

I always thought it might be nice to update the study to test to see whether different kinds of “cheap talk” were more or less effective in establishing cooperation.

(Almost) The Triumph of Game Theory at the Super Bowl

One of the amazing things about the Super Bowl game this past weekend was that both coaches understood that the Patriots would be better off if the Giants scored a touchdown late in the game and reportedly instructed their teams accordingly.  To my mind, this represents a high point in the prevalence of strategic thinking. 

Was the failure of Ahmad Bradshaw to follow through on his coach’s instruction merely a failure of execution?

But I wonder whether the Giants failed to strategically optimize on the very next play selection.  With about a minute left in the game (and with a timeout remaining for the Patriots), the Giants choose to go for a two-point conversion.  My question is not about whether they should have kicked a point after.  No, I wonder whether they might have done better by handing the ball to a swift runner, who might have even more perversely attempted to forgo scoring two points and instead tried to burn as many seconds off the clock as possible by merely running away from the other team (toward, but not into, the other endzone!).  

A Twilight Opening Night Payoff Matrix

A student was interested in seeing the new Twilight movie, Breaking Dawn Part 1. And her roommate, a “Twi-Hard,” even had an extra ticket for the opening, midnight showing. The student likes seeing the vampires and werewolves occasionally, but cannot stand the continuing screams of the mostly pre-pubescent audience. She views her situation as a game with the following payoff bi-matrix:

A Study in Child Cooperation: Sweden vs. Colombia

The behavior of children continues to be of interest for both economists and Freakonomics. Back in May, we looked at research by the German economist Martin Kocher showing that young children are generally less risk-averse than adults.

Now, a working paper by Juan-Camilo Cardenas, Anna Dreber, Emma von Essen and Eva Ranehill at the Stockholm School of Economics compares the cooperative behavior of Swedish children and Colombian children using the Prisoner's Dilemma game, which explores how two parties cooperate in the absence of communication.

Game Theory and Child-Rearing

A reader named Clark Case, who lives in Aurora, Ohio, and works as a product manager, writes in with a child-rearing observation.

When the Dictator Speaks

It pays to be the dictator, but not as much when you have to explain yourself.

Transparency vs. Responsible Journalism

Annie Duke, the professional poker player and Rock Paper Scissors tournament winner, has a new internet show. A recent episode included appearances by Rafe Furst and Jason Calcanis, discussing privacy and responsible journalism in the face of the recent WikiLeaks scandals.

The Element of Surprise in Middle-School Football

No, this trick won't work in the NFL, but Driscoll Middle School in Corpus Christi, Tex., pulled it off brilliantly.

What's Derek Jeter Worth? A Freakonomics Quorum

While the New York Yankees' 2010 season came to a disappointing close, it would still appear inevitable that the team will want to re-sign Derek Jeter, their franchise shortstop. But it appears just as inevitable that his on-field performance isn't worth nearly as much as he will likely want to be paid.

Game Strategy in Biblical Times

Genesis 20:1-18 tells of Abraham visiting Avimelech and offering him Sarah (who, so Abraham tells Avimelech, is his sister, when she is also his wife).