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The present state of the profession of psychology in Australia: Are we caught in the Prisoner's Dilemma?

Event number: 19013
1.5 CPD hours
Presenter(s): Dr Allan Shafter & Dr Henry Luiker

The prisoner's dilemma is a standard example of a game analyzed in game theory that shows why two completely "rational" individuals might not cooperate, even if it appears that it is in their best interests to do so. It was originally framed by Merrill Flood and Melvin Dresher working at RAND (Research and Development, a US nonprofit global policy thinktank) in 1950. The mathematician Albert W. Tucker formalized the game with prison sentence rewards and named it, "prisoner's dilemma", presenting it as follows: 

Two members of a criminal gang are arrested and imprisoned. Each prisoner is in solitary confinement with no means of communicating with the other. The prosecutors lack sufficient evidence to convict the pair on the principal charge. They hope to get both sentenced to a year in prison on a lesser charge. Simultaneously, the prosecutors offer each prisoner a bargain. Each prisoner is given the opportunity either to: betray the other by testifying that the other committed the crime, or to cooperate with the other by remaining silent. The offer is: 

  • If A and B each betray the other, each of them serves 2 years in prison 
  • If A betrays B but B remains silent, A will be set free and B will serve 3 years in prison (and vice versa) 
  • If A and B both remain silent, both of them will only serve 1 year in prison (on the lesser charge) 

A very clear, user-friendly, free, interactive demonstration is available at which you are warmly encouraged to check out. It takes about 30 minutes, so prepare your favourite beverage and settle in.

The forum will commence with a brief introduction to the Prisoner’s Dilemma, after which participants are invited to share their thoughts, ideas and reflections on the issues. Allan Shafer will manage and facilitate the process. 

Learning outcomes 

  • Cognitive understanding of game theory 
  • Applying game theory to an organizational dilemma with personal relevance 
  • Experiential/emotional learning as we think together about the implications of game theory for leadership, personal authority and problem solving

If interested, please visit the following link to familiarise yourself with Game Theory: 

About the presenter(s)

Allan Shafer MA (Clin Psych), D Litt et Phil will conduct the forum. Dr Shafer trained originally as a clinical psychologist in South Africa and subsequently as a socioanalyst. Along with a psychotherapy and supervisory practice, he has consulted to organisations (primarily in the mental health field) and has been on the staff of group relations experiential conferences in Australia, the UK, India, China, Poland and Israel. He is past President of Group Relations Australia. He has a particular interest in the dynamics of groups and the politics of hate and anxiety. At the 2014 PCCA (Partners in Confronting Collective Atrocities) conference in Poland, he worked with the dynamics between children of Nazi perpetrators and children of Nazi victims. At the 2016 conferences of the University of Chicago Centers in Hong Kong and Beijing, and the OFEK International Group Relations Conference in Israel 2017, he worked with members from Taiwan and China on their complex relatedness.

Henry Luiker is member of the Sydney Branch Committee of the APS. He will introduce the Prisoner’s Dilemma.

Online registration


Seminar Room 340
New Law Building Annex, Eastern Avenue, Sydney University
Sydney, NSW 2006
Venue is wheelchair accessible
Start date: 27/10/2017
End date: 27/10/2017
Time: 6pm - 8pm


APS member: $70
APS student member: $40
Non APS member: $90


APS - Sydney Branch
Contact Henry Luiker
(02) 9389 4512