Love and Prisoner’s Dilemma


To be in Love and to commit is similar to the situation in Prisoner’s dilemma. If you dont know what Prisoner’s dilemma is it explained below in this video

If both cooperate they both get one year in jail. If one betrays the other person gets 3 years in jail and you are free. If both betray, both get 2 years in prison.

Love is a state of two people being foolish together. If one backs out it makes the other person look more foolish. Its the middle ground stricken between the two. The toughest part about dating is committing to the other person or rather finding if the other person is committed enough.

The game

You can play this serious, dangerous but fun game at any stage of dating (Before committing) – The ”Yes’ or “No’ game.

Both of you are posed with this question ‘Would you at any point in time marry this person’.

You should type an ‘Yes’ or a “No’ in your mobile and hit send at the same time.  You typing an yes or a No is pretty straightforward as you already know the answer as to if you want a future with this person or if you are willing to try even a lil bit out. The part you dont know is what the other person is thinking or is going to type. This brings us to the Prisoner’s dilemma. When you press send you will end in either of these four situations

State 1 -Yes and Yes


If you are in this state, lets say you got a happy beginning, who knows your story might have a happy ending too. You earned each other’s trust. You either

  • Really like the other person
  • You trusted that the other person will type a yes as well
  • You were willing to take that chance(State 2 and 3) of looking foolish.

Congrats! Both of you can embrace your vulnerability and are secure lovers and will have a nurturing relationship

State 2 and 3 – No and Yes

This is the state everyone dreads to be in. When you want it and the other person ‘Actually doesnt want it’ or ‘Is playing cool’

Both of which is bad.

This leads to one person getting out of it less hurt and other one beaten down hard (Betrayal of trust and crushing of emotions). Real heartbreaks happen here.

State 4

You are just in for a fling or both of you dont trust each other enough.

In modern age dating this is where most people are. They dont want to get hurt. They dont want to look foolish to the other person. They prefer not risking and playing safe !

Its the safest place to be in but they are not going anywhere either!


Graph here shows the number of times people(in pairs) cooperated when presented with the classical version of prisoners dilemma. As you can see very few times both people cooperated and most of the times they played safe.

This brings us to the important concept of Nash equilibrium. In a Nash equilibrium, every person in a group makes the best decision for herself, based on what she thinks the others will do. And no-one can do better by changing strategy: every member of the group is doing as well as they possibly can

Decisions that are good for individuals can sometimes be terrible for groups!

It all boils down to the most important thing in relationships : Trust

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