Repeated Games as a Condition for Reciprocity

August 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

Looking through Geraldine’s books at her flat in Kennington I came across one called ‘Game Theory, A Very Short Introduction’ (Oxford University Press, 2007). It instantly called my attention as a follow up to the one I bought some months ago about Finite and Infinite Games that taught me a lot about the infinite nature of the hosting paradigm or ‘game’.

Reciprocity has always been regarded as the mainspring of human sociality. This theory offers some insight into the nuts and bolts of such self-policing understandings. ‘In a one-shot game Alice can’t promise to scratch Bob’s back tomorrow if he will scratch her back today, because we have implicitly assumed that they are never going to meet again. The simplest setting in which reciprocity can arise results in the same players to play the same game over and over again.’

This re-enforces the idea that if you know you’ll stay in relationship with somebody or a group of people they are more likely to contribute – cooperate- collaborate. Because if they don’t…there will be punishment! The Game Theory book says that ‘The threat of punishment is intrinsic to reciprocal cooperation ‘if Alice tells Bob that she will scratch his back if he will scratch hers, the implication is that she won’t scratch his back if he won’t scratch hers. People don’t usually provide a service unless they expect to get something in return. If the service isn’t reciprocated, then it will be withdrawn. Sometimes, a disservice will be offered instead.’

It’s great to begin to understand more about the conditions in which people give their best for the common good which directly benefits them too. There are more ‘rules’ than we generally think are and they can be of great help when building communities and networks and the way their members interact with each other.

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