Munich Personal RePEc Archive

A Note on Stabilizing Cooperation in the Centipede Game

Brams, Steven and Kilgour, Marc (2021): A Note on Stabilizing Cooperation in the Centipede Game. Published in: Games , Vol. 11, No. 35 (20 August 2020): pp. 1-7.

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Abstract

In the much-studied Centipede Game, which resembles Iterated Prisoners’ Dilemma, two players successively choose between (1) cooperating, by continuing play, or (2) defecting and terminating play. The subgame-perfect Nash equilibrium implies that play terminates on the first move, even though continuing play can benefit both players—but not if the rival defects immediately, which it has an incentive to do. We show that, without changing the structure of the game, interchanging the payoffs of the two players provides each with an incentive to cooperate whenever its turn comes up. The unique Nash equilibrium in the transformed Centipede Game, called the Reciprocity Game, is unique—unlike the Centipede Game, where there are many Nash equilibria. The Reciprocity Game can be implemented noncooperatively by adding, at the start of the Centipede Game, a move to exchange payoffs, which it is rational for the players to choose. What this interchange signifies, and its application to transforming an arms race into an arms-control treaty, are discussed.

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