An Iterated Four-Player Prisoner's Dilemma Game with an External Selecting Agent: A Metacontingency Experiment

Daniele Ortu, April Becker, Thomas Woelz, Sigrid Glenn


In these series of experiments we used an iterated prisoners' dilemma game (IPDG) to examine the effect of metacontingencies on aggregate products of the interrelated behavior of four players. Results of the first experiment showed that cultural level consequences ("market feedback" in the form of points delivered to all players) contingent on aggregate products XXXX or YYYY increased the frequency of those productions. In subsequent experiments we added a baseline condition where the players experienced only the individual behavioral contingencies embedded in the game. Then we imposed the metacontingency on the XXXX aggregate product or, alternatively, on YYYY. After several reversals, we discontinued the metacontingency and the players again experienced only the individual contingencies of the game. In one experiment we used a yoked control to assess the effect of market feedback independent from the metacontingency relation. Results indicate that the cultural consequence (market feedback) controlled production of aggregate products even when its magnitude was minimal, that the metacontingency relation was necessary, and that it maintained relations among the behavior of individuals which resulted in the worst individual outcomes for all players.

Palabras clave

cultural selection, behavioral contingencies, cultural contingencies, interlocking behavioral contingencies

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