The Shared Reward Dilemma Articles uri icon

publication date

  • March 2008

start page

  • 253

end page

  • 263


  • 2


  • 251

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0022-5193

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1095-8541


  • One of the most direct human mechanisms of promoting cooperation is rewarding it. We study the effect of sharing a reward among cooperators in the most stringent form of social dilemma, namely the prisoner's dilemma (PD). Specifically, for a group of players that collect payoffs by playing a pairwise PD game with their partners, we consider an external entity that distributes a fixed reward equally among all cooperators. Thus, individuals confront a new dilemma: on the one hand, they may be inclined to choose the shared reward despite the possibility of being exploited by defectors; on the other hand, if too many players do that, cooperators will obtain a poor reward and defectors will outperform them. By appropriately tuning the amount to be shared a vast variety of scenarios arises, including the traditional ones in the study of cooperation as well as more complex situations where unexpected behavior can occur. We provide a complete classification of the equilibria of the n-player game as well as of its evolutionary dynamics.