Rationality and the backwards induction argument

Analysis 59 (4):243–248 (1999)
Many philosophers and game theorists have been struck by the thought that the backward induction argument (BIA) for the finite iterated pris- oner’s dilemma (FIPD) recommends a course of action which is grossly counter-intuitive and certainly contrary to the way in which people behave in real-life FIPD-situations (Luce and Raiffa 1957, Pettit and Sugden 1989, Bovens 1997).1 Yet the backwards induction argument puts itself forward as binding upon rational agents. What are we to conclude from this? Is it that people in real-life FIPD-situations tend to act irrationally and that our own intuitions about what to do in such situations reveal us to be irra- tional? Alternatively, should we abandon game theory and decision theory as a guide to rationality? Or are there other ways in which the apparent disparity between the dictates of rationality and the reality of reasoning can be accommodated?
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