What is a “social dilemma”?


Within the INVITE project, we noticed that there was no a single unified and well-accepted formal definition of social dilemma. Social dilemmas are at the core of day-to-day social interactions and also of some of the most challenging issues of society related with the environment (global warming, depletion of environmental resources), economics (bank runs, tax evasion) and politics (global war, arms control) – just to mention a few areas.

We propose to define a “social dilemma” in a non-cooperative normal form game if there is a rationalizable pure strategy profile which is Pareto inefficient. We propose this definition, applying the broadest and most well-accepted notion of collective rationality and the more encompassing requirement of individual rationality.


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