Mistakes allow evolutionary stability in the repeated prisoner's dilemma game

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165 Scopus citations


The repeated prisoner's dilemma game has been widely used in analyses of the evolution of reciprocal altruism. Recently it was shown that no pure strategy could be evolutionarily stable in the repeated prisoner's dilemma. Here I show that if there is always some probability that individuals will make a mistake, then a pure strategy can be evolutionarily stable provided that it is "strong perfect equilibria" against itself. To be a strong perfect equilibrium against itself, a strategy must be the best response to itself after every possible sequence of behavior. I show that both unconditional defection and a modified version of tit-for-tat have this property.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-56
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 9 1989
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Applied Mathematics


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