Expectation and cooperation in prisoner's dilemmas: The moderating role of game riskiness

Psychon Bull Rev. 2016 Apr;23(2):353-60. doi: 10.3758/s13423-015-0911-7.


This paper investigated the effect of risk orientation, game riskiness, and expectation of cooperation on cooperation in one-shot prisoner's dilemmas (PD). Participants in pairs played PD games that varied on game riskiness such that for half of the games cooperation was more risky than defection (more risky games) while for another half cooperation was less risky (less risky games). They estimated how likely it was that the other player was going to cooperate (expectation of cooperation) before they made their cooperation/defection decision on each game. Supporting the Goal/Expectation Hypothesis, we replicated the effect that expectation of cooperation enhanced cooperation. We also found that risk-seeking individuals cooperated more in more risky games whereas risk-averse individuals cooperated more in less risky games. More importantly, we found that game riskiness moderated the effect of expectation of cooperation on cooperation. The positive effect of expectation of cooperation on cooperation was stronger for more risky games than for less risky games. Our results illustrated how the relation between expectation and cooperation as stipulated by the Goal/Expectation Hypothesis was moderated by riskiness of the situations.

Keywords: Expectation of cooperation; Game riskiness; Prisoner’s dilemma; Risk aversion; Risk orientation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Prisoner Dilemma*
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Young Adult