prisoner's dilemma

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prisoner's dilemma

n.
In game theory, a scenario in which two players can cooperate with or betray each other, with neither player knowing the strategy of the other, and the outcome for each player varying according to the combined outcome of both. It is used in various disciplines, such as economics, to model human interaction, and biology, to model altruism.

[From the common framing of the scenario as the story of two prisoners who are separately offered a plea bargain according to which the length of each prisoner's sentence depends on both his own decision to inform on the other and the other's decision to inform on him.]