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A one-shot game is one where two participants have some set of actions $\{1, ... , n\}$, they make their decision on which option to take (without knowing the decision of their partner, or in sequence depending on game). Based on the action $i$ of the first player and $j$ of the second player, they receive some reward (or punishment) $G(i,j)$. The participants never play again, and are made aware of this before the interaction happens. There is no communication allowed between the participants except making their action choice.

The game is perfect information if the participants are made aware of all possible outcomes of the game ahead of time (they are shown and explained the payoff matrix $G$ at least implicitly). The final result depends solely on the mutual decision of the players. From the perspective of the participant, there is no hidden state or chance apart in the action of the opponent.


Game theory makes predictions on how rational players will behave in such settings. The fun part of psychology is that human's often don't follow these predictions. They cooperate more than they should in Prisoner's dillema (PD), violate the sure-thing principle in turn-based PD (Shafir & Tversky, 1992), reject unfair offers in ultimatum game (Guth et al., 1982), vary across cultures in their propensity to punish in public goods games (Herrmann, et al. 2008), and many other things that game theory doesn't predict.

The experimental literature is vast and divided between anthropology, economics, psychology, and law (just sampling from my own library). Is there a reliable current or canonical survey/summary/meta-analysis of well-controlled laboratory based experiments of human behaviour in one-shot perfect information games?


  • I prefer artificial well-controlled experiments will a large number of participants over natural or in-the-field experiments.

  • The previous point means that I am alright with data just from WEIRD participants, even for games where cultural variation is known to be significant. However, discussions of known cross-cultural effects is welcome.

  • Bonus if the summary looks at many different games in very similar experimental setting, and shows games where there is both agreement and disagreement from game-theoretic predictions.

  • I am not interested in papers about a single experiments, unless you want to provide a detailed survey of many such papers, their results, and methodology in your answer.


Guth, W., Schmittberger, R., & Schwarze, B. (1982) An experimental analysis of ultimatum bargaining. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 3(4): 367-388.

Herrmann, B., Thoni, C., & Gachter, S. (2008) Antisocial punishment across societies. Science 319(5868): 1362-1367.

Shafir, E., & Tversky, A. (1992). Thinking through uncertainty: Nonconsequential reasoning and choice. Cognitive Psychology 24:449-474.

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You might want to look at Multi-Agent System approaches in Artificial Intelligence. I know it's no review, but they simulate these kinds of interactions with agents, i.e. intelligent digital units, many hundreds or thousands of times. By replacing people with the agents, they do not need to find 1000 people to come by, if they want a vast amount of data. There are many papers about Rock-Paper-Scissors or prisoner's dilemma, so I think one-shot decision games exist too.

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I don't think this qualifies as an answer to the question, and should be left as a comment instead. I can simulate these games on my own, as can anybody else. The human part of the question is essential. – Artem Kaznatcheev Apr 24 at 16:54

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