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. 2020 Jan 20;12:29-37.
doi: 10.2147/NSS.S237402. eCollection 2020.

Sleep Deprivation Impairs Cooperative Behavior Selectively: Evidence From Prisoner's and Chicken Dilemmas

Free PMC article

Sleep Deprivation Impairs Cooperative Behavior Selectively: Evidence From Prisoner's and Chicken Dilemmas

Yi Lin et al. Nat Sci Sleep. .
Free PMC article


Objective: The aim of our study was to investigate the influences of acute sleep deprivation on cooperation with two classical social dilemmas, the Prisoner's dilemma (PD) and the chicken dilemma (CD).

Methods: All participants (N=24) were required to come for the experiments twice; one time for normal sleep condition, the other time for sleep deprivation condition, with a counter-balanced sequence. In the following afternoon, participants completed the psychomotor vigilance task (PVT) and two social dilemmas tasks, as well as the Karolinska Sleepiness Scale (KSS), the Risk Orientation Questionnaire (ROQ) and the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS).

Results: Our results demonstrated that sleep deprivation significantly impaired cooperative behaviors in the CD but not in the PD. In addition, this detrimental effect was not related with the alteration in the risk-seeking, objective alertness, subjective sleepiness, and mood.

Conclusion: The current findings revealed that sleep deprivation impairs cooperative behaviors under social dilemmas selectively. However, the underlying mechanism remains to further explore with neuroimaging studies and better ecological approach.

Keywords: cooperation; risk-seeking; sleep deprivation.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors report no conflicts of interest in this work.


Figure 1
Figure 1
(A) Payoff matrix for general structure. (B) Payoff matrix for the prisoner’s dilemma. (C) Payoff matrix for the chicken dilemma. Abbreviations: C, cooperation; D, detection; P, punishment; R, reward; S, sucker; T, temptation.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Experimental protocol of normal sleep and sleep deprivation conditions.
Figure 3
Figure 3
Cooperation rates for CD and PD under normal sleep and sleep deprivation condition. Note: *p=0.007. Abbreviations: CD, chicken dilemma; PD, prisoner’s dilemma.

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