Tit for Tat

A friend earlier commented on the collapse of his marriage, including what he described as a ‘tit4tat” strategy. It turns out that “tit for tat” is a recognized concept in game theory. Surprisingly (at least for me), the strategy is most effective in cooperative circumstances, and is used to explain societal development as being largely cooperative, rather than individualistic.

In relation to “tit for tat”, my friend Neil Remington Abramson commented as follows (e-mail correspondence reproduced with permission):

I no longer believe (if I ever believed) that tit4tat is the best strategy. I read about a different strategy, originally developed by the US State Dept. for dealing with Russia, that seems to work better. When they do something you regard as negative, you still tit them, but you don’t wait for their response. You find a way to proactively offer to cooperate again.

The trouble with tit4tat is that you are reactive. If they cooperate, so do you. If they battle, so do you. But if they battle, and you battle, and they tit you back, you get a negative cycle. This other way, you register your dissatisfaction, but also take the lead aiming at a cooperative cycle. I think this works better.

On the other hand, the lowbrow (?) popular view of “Tit for Tat” may be something quite different:

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About brucelarochelle

Practising Lawyer and Part-Time University Instructor (Accounting, Commercial Law, Organizational Behaviour); Part-Time Federal Tribunal Member. Non-practising Chartered Professional Accountant (Chartered Accountant and Certified Management Accountant).
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One Response to Tit for Tat

  1. The game theorists actually have competitive tournaments to see which strategy is king. Tit4tat was hands down bes, t until it was dethroned by this State Dept one. Robert Axelrod wrote a book proclaiming the effectiveness of tit4tat, if you want 2nd best (It certainly contributed to my divorce, and appears to have had no positive effect on the outcome of the marriage of your friend.) The other has no book. It’s probably classified, except for the one article I found years ago.

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