Prisoner's Dilemma /Red Black - an LGAT set up
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: July 18, 2015 08:49PM

Large Group Awareness Trainings (LGATs) Often employ Prisoner's Dilemma, sometimes in the form of the Red Black game.

When unaware that they are in a Prisoner's Dilemma set up, most people find it very difficult -- even university students.



A professor tested the 'Prisoner's Dilemma' on his students by bribing them with extra credit points


In the case of Selterman's class, the students are the prisoners. All would benefit from two additional points on their final papers, but the majority will give in to the temptation of six additional points. As a result, no one will get extra credit.

He's been presenting the dilemma to students since 2008, but Selterman says only one class has successfully received an extra two points each.

It was not this year's class.

A detailed description of this tactic in an LGAT setting



Day three, event six:

The last exercise of the evening is the "Red and Black" game. This is a type of "prisoner's dilemma" game popular in social psychology experiments. Participants are encouraged by the trainer and by staff to "win" the game, really pour it on. Staffers become like cheerleaders, and, after the trainer has explained the game ("The purpose is to win"), participants are divided into two teams and are left on their own to elect captains and figure out how to win the game.

[COMMENT: The game, of course. is rigged. It directly follows the long "parent process," when participants are in an euphoric, emotionally primitive state in which they experience the ultimate gratifications of childhood: unconditional love and unlimited attention. After all the importance the trainer has placid an "winning," "doing whatever is necessary to win," and "creating your own reality," it turns out this game can be won only if the two sides cooperate. In the 18 trainings subjects reported on only once did participants figure out how to cooperate.)

By the time the game has to be stopped, 3 of 3"behavior" subjects (100%) reported that many people had become very excited. driven, and frustrated about winning. it is at this point the trainer steps in and harangues and humiliates the participants. He swears at them, he calls them names, he blames the arms race and world hunger on people like them, who "can't imagine winning without killing the other side."

The recrimination is very strong, and very effective. All subjects reported being affected by it and remembering it. The pattern was the same for 14 of 15 "experience" subjects (93%). Either subjects felt distraught because they tried to win by making the other side lose, or they figured out the key to winning, but they were too frightened to speak up or too self-critical to believe they knew the answer. Either way, one "experience" subject noted, everyone seemed to feel embarrassed and crushed. As one "behavior" subject noted, it was, paradoxically, a no-win situation.




The reporter here notes that subjects were instructed not to tell anyone
about this part of the seminar.


The following is the climax of PSI Basic, and one the secrets they command initiates not to spread in order to "not ruin the experience". That said, this is a fairly common exercise in all LGAT programs and the below is taken from someone who did the Landmark training.
The Red/Black game: After several of these types of processes it was time for the Red/Black game. In this game people are divided into 2 teams and sent to separate rooms. Instructions were given to get the most number of points and elect a captain who will tally the votes. The trainer asked if anyone in the room had played the game before. A few had and were excused. I raised my hand and stated that I had read about the game in a book. I was told to play the game anyway.

There are 10 frames in this game like a bowling sheet. The 5th frame is double points, the 10th frame is triple points. Points are accumulated from frame to frame. There is no communication to the other team other than a staffer runs back and forth between rooms and tells you how the other team voted between frames. Each team votes on a color red or black with a simple majority. The trainer goes back and forth between the rooms and observes. There is absolutely no help from the staff.

Scoring is as follows:

Team A vote Team B vote Team A scores Team B scores

Black Black +3 +3
Red Black +5 -5
Black Red -5 +5
Red Red -5 -5

It should be obvious that the scenario is win/win win/lose lose/win and lose/lose.
When I went to the next room with my team, I was overwhelmingly elected to be the team captain since I had read about the game. I then explained the purpose of the game and how it is to illustrate the win-win scenario. We took a vote which I counted being the team captain. The votes for black outnumbered red by about 2:1. The staffer came into the room and said. "Team B what is your vote?"
To which I responded "Team B votes Black."
The staffer said "Your vote has been accepted. Team A votes Black."
The black/black vote gave each team 3 points. Everyone seemed quite pleased that the vote turned out the way it did and it appeared that we were headed towards a win-win game. But this was not to be the case.
I asked for the vote for the second frame and this time the overwhelming majority voted black with just a few people voting red. The staffer returned and asked
"Team B what is your vote?"
I responded "Team B votes Black."
The staffer replied "I'm sorry, you did not follow the ground rules. Your vote is invalid."
This was quite puzzling. We took the vote again with the majority voting black. Again the staffer returns and asks
"Team B what is your vote?"
I responded again "Team B votes Black."
The staffer replies again "I'm sorry, you did not follow the ground rules. Your vote is invalid."
Being that the staffer is not in the room when we vote then one of the staff members that is seated at a table in the rear of the room must be giving him a thumbs down sign. The staffers seated at the rear sit with their arms crossed and are not saying a word. I was to learn later that this is practiced.
By this time people are starting to murmur that voting black must be wrong and that we should be voting red. I responded that the purpose of the game is to observe how you play game. I was thinking about how things had become rather interesting. I asked the group what they remembered about the ground rules. People responded with what they thought they heard. I took another vote. This time there were a few more voting red. Again the vote was declared invalid.
This time several people became very upset. A few of them get disgusted and leave the room. They are, of course, attended by staff. I can't blame them since it has been a long and stressful evening and it is well after ..:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />midnight and at the rate we were going we could be there all night.
A man stands up and says that we should be voting red. That is why our vote was wrong. I stated that there was nothing in the ground rules stating which way we had to vote. More and more people rally around this individual and there is a motion to dismiss me as the team captain. The majority vote to dismiss me and install the other guy as team captain.
He takes the vote which is red by a small majority. The staffer returns.
"Team B what is your vote?"
To which the captain responds "Team B votes Red."
The staffer said "Your vote has been accepted. Team A votes Black."
There is much relief and celebration in the room. Not only has the vote been accepted but we are now winning the game. I was to learn later that members of Team A in the next room thought that Team B had tricked them into voting Black in the second frame and were now arguing for the third frame to be voted Red.
I stood up and said that I thought that what I did wrong was not count the individual votes in the second frame since it was overwhelmingly Black.
We took another vote which was black by a very small margin.
"Team B what is your vote?"
"Team B votes Black.."
The staffer said "Your vote has been accepted. Team A votes Red."
Several people are upset that Team A has voted Red. Even more people get up and leave the room. I think by the end of the game only 2/3rds are left in the room.
The fourth frame is voted Red/Red. The rest of the game goes rather quickly. From this point on with each frame more and more people in the group vote Red that by the 9th frame only myself and one or two others still vote Black. The tenth frame was the opportunity for triple points. At this point it is close to the end of the game and I said to myself "Screw it. I guess majority rules".
Everyone in the group voted Red, myself included.
Team A also voted Red.
The final result was a score something like -7 to -17. Little did we know there was hell to pay...

By this time it was after 1 AM and we were told to file back into the main ballroom in silence. The trainer had a look that would kill. When we got to our seats we were ordered to close our eyes and the trainer screamed at us for over 30 minutes straight. We were told that what we did in the game amounted to war and the way we played that game was the way we lived our lives. That screaming lecture accused us of just about every negative behavior imaginable. We were told that crime in the streets, racism, and other personal and social problems were because of people like us. You would have thought we were the leaders of Russia and America who just fired off an all-out nuclear exchange at each other and were now being called to account for it in hell. Those of us who knew how the game was supposed to be played and voted black were especially berated because we didn't "take a stand" for the win-win situation.

After a night of sleep deprivation and now another late night plus all the psychological opening exercises, this screaming lecture over a PA system sends thunderbolts through your consciousness. I felt like with every sentence that a powerful jolt of electricity was sent through my nervous system.

We were told to leave in silence and were given an assignment to spend an hour reflecting on what we just did and to be back at 10 AM. This is in addition to written homework due the next day. By this time it is going on 2 in the morning.

How to win the game? Refuse to vote unless the whole team votes for the win-win scenario.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/18/2015 09:11PM by corboy.

Options: ReplyQuote
A discussion of Prisoners dilemma and comments
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: July 18, 2015 09:02PM

Here is a discussion of the Prisoners Dilemma game.

The comments section is worth reading. Many extoll this game as
educational and even transforming.

Others report that it is harrowing.


On October 19, 2013 at 9:20 pm ericscoles said:

I played this game this evening. It was downright cultic.

The scenario was similar: It was presented as a game where there would be two teams, and the objective was to achieve the maximum number of “plus points”. The careful, repeated phrasing should have been a clue that we’d be held accountable for that phrasing later — it’s a common tactic of people engaging in deception to use very precise language, so they can later rationalize that they were telling the truth and you were at fault for the misunderstanding. Every single person on each team conceptualized it as a competition between two teams. And as in your case, it was followed by a sustained attack on the moral fiber of the participants.

This was followed by a pressure-play, wherein previous players of the game (who didn’t participate) were asked to stand if it had had a ‘life-changing impact’ on them. “These are people you’ve shared secrets with,” etc., from the leader. The message: Won’t you be _ashamed_ if you don’t decide to buy this as a legitimate mode of persuasion?

Afterward, I decided that if it’s played as a listening exercise, I might not have a problem with it. But in that setting, it wouldn’t be used as a ploy to weaken the participants and bend them to your will. As it is I’ve been left feeling unclean and manipulated. I still have another day left in the workshop and the fallout for me in my workplace will be severe if I don’t finish, and one of the instructors is a close personal friend of one of my prospective job references, but I’m nevertheless seriously considering just not going back in the morning. It’s really hard for me to go back in good conscience; it would be an endorsement of this kind of creepy, cultic persuasion tactics.



On November 22, 2013 at 2:59 pm voteblack for the win-win! said:

I think you missed the point!


On November 22, 2013 at 4:11 pm ericscoles said:

No, ‘voteblack for the win-win’, I didn’t miss the point. I understand what the point is supposed to be.

I also understand that he people running the workshop violated the principles they were claiming to espouse by tricking their students and then not owning the fact that they’d done so.

I know that this is true because they told us they were doing it, but not directly. They told us ‘people tell us they feel like they got conned'; that means they knew going in people would feel like they got conned.

If your teaching method EVER leaves the students feeling like they got conned, IT’S AN UNETHICAL METHOD. And that’s ESPECIALLY true if you’re claiming to teach Emotional

Note the sneering shame trip in response.


On November 22, 2013 at 5:15 pm voteblack for the win-win! said:

WOW Eric! You are STILL bitter over a month later over a game designed to bring about self reflection, understanding of human nature and filters that impact our thoughts and actions, and how we can make a change for the positive in ourselves and others by pursuing the win-win! Super glad I don’t work or live with you!

On November 22, 2013 at 5:24 pm voteblack for the win-win! said:

I really enjoyed the game’s lessons and just stumbled upon this blog trying to find the instructions to do with a group. I was trying to vote black on your comment suggesting you may have missed the point of it. Sorry to hear you still have bitter feelings about the intentions of those who led the game. You and you alone have control over your feelings and your decisions on how to react to the actions and intentions of others. Hope you can get past the bitterness and take something positive from your experience.


On November 22, 2013 at 5:25 pm ericscoles said:

voteblack, you have the option to not reply to any of these — why is it so important to you to conceptualize me as “bitter”?

But I’ll bite: This is important, and you’re illustrating why. In this framework, EVERYTHING is “owned” by the person feeling the emotion — no one is ever implicated for “making” anyone else feel a certain way, even when they know going into a scenario that someone else is going to come out of it feeling bad.

You persist in missing my point through this entire exchange, which is that I DID in fact learn a lesson from the game: Don’t trust those people. They don’t merit trust. They haven’t earned it.

Vote Black gives the typical LGAT apologist replies.

On November 22, 2013 at 5:50 pm voteblack for the win-win! said:

Not important at all Eric … “bitter” is just the word that comes to mind and the perception I’m getting (and possibly others are in your world) from your verbiage. Not seeing your tone or facial expressions of course so who knows for sure. And so my thoughts are just that one gives a lot of their power away when they allow a game or words said to them to impact them negatively. And if something so elicits such a bad feeling, maybe its worth investigating why I would feel so bad about words said to me or the team I was on. And does this feeling arise other places in my life? Maybe I can free myself from such a silly, self inflicted burden. Or maybe it calls me to a mission to help others not be victims of such abuse if it truly is abuse. Or maybe it just shows me that I’m allowing myself to be a victim rather than taking charge of my life or the situation. No matter, there’s lots of lessons.

Perhaps the people who facilitated your game were different than those who facilitated mine** but no matter who the facilitators, you seem very angry. I hear your take home as ‘distrust’ although I suspect that was not the intended take home of the facilitators. Clearly it was not the intent of our facilitators nor that of the writers of the game! For your joy in life, I hope you will find the positive lessons intended and not dwell on the negative feelings elicited by your experience. Look forward. Sorry I brought up the past!

Best to you Eric.

Corboy: No, the facilitators are not different. This prisoners dilemma game is used by a multitude of LGATs. It is the same dirty set up.

Options: ReplyQuote
Here people chose to play prisoners dilemma c
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: July 18, 2015 09:06PM

Here is another discussion from the same blog.

This episode is worth our close attention because the commentor reports
that friends played PD consensually -- and they ended up feeling
very pained about the results.


On March 20, 2011 at 2:52 pm Jen P. said:

Thanks for the comments and links–

I did a practice run of this game last night with a group of close friends in preparation for an upcoming youth leadership program. Team A tried to negotiate in the first round, but Team B did not trust them. The game sparked a two hour discussion about how we are wired and how our perceptions lead us to play the game. Even amongst friends, we could not achieve a level of trust needed to “achieve the maximum number of positive points”.

In the end, I began to wonder what is it going to take to live in a society and world where people are willing to choose black every time? When we solve that, I believe we will achieve a paradigm shift in how the human race operates.

Thanks Madison for posting this blog

If this happened when a leaderless group chose to play this game, imagine the impact when strangers are directed to do this in an exploitative, high stress situation, where they do not know this is a no win game.


On May 2, 2014 at 7:09 am The Coach said:

Amazing – reading the whole discussion above, made me shiver and brought my mind back to 2001 where I played this game on a 5 days workshop called “MAHUT” (“The assence of life”), in Israel.

It was played on the end of the 3rd day. After we experienced new ways of approaching life and relationships – and we still played RED! losing the game but earning a great lesson.

In real life People are playing RED not just on money – but with lives!
People get kiiled – and their responce – let’s kill some on the other side … losing not just points – but losing LIFE.

People are getting a divorce – and playing red – where there kids are paying the emotional price for life.

I wish this game would be played in schools – and every boy and girl on this planet would learn this lesson. PLAY BLACK ! we might all win. Play red – we are always losing.

Last year I was a coach for a workshop and I delivered this game to the group. I got so angry – even after I showed the results (of RED choise), and the discussion we had – the RED leaders in both groups were still debating and agruing with me.

Love to all !

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/18/2015 09:11PM by corboy.

Options: ReplyQuote
Re: Prisoner's Dilemma /Red Black - an LGAT set up
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: November 04, 2016 10:29PM



I'm the poster who said to watch Fight Club. Chuck Palahniuk (friend of mine) wrote Fight Club just after attending a weekend Forum.

It essentially teaches you that everything is in your head, nothing is real, it's all just perception. That sandwich in your hand? Not there. That chair you're sitting on? Just your imagination.

Hence my shortcut: just watch Fight Club instead. You are the Edward Norton character. The world is the Brad Pitt character.

It's essentially Existentialism 101 for Dummies.


reply 3403/13/2013
[R30] The red and black game is as follows (this is from some educators site but I assume it's the same one):

This is an exercise to try on your students to demonstrate that not all situations are best done in a competetive way. Divide your class into three (or, possibly, more) teams. The purpose of the game is to score as many points as possible. On each turn, each group decides whether choose red or black and writes that on a sheet of paper. Scoring is as follows:

If all choose black, each team scores 50. If exactly one team chooses red, that team scores 100 and all other teams score 0. If more than one team chooses red, all teams score 0. Play about 5 or 6 rounds. What you should usually find is that at least one group will start using red almost immediately and others will join in so that by the end of the game, NO team will have as many points as they would have if everyone had "cooperated" and chosen black at each turn. You can also point out that you said "score as many points as possible" NOT "your team should score as many points as possible" - again emphasizing that the larger score by the whole group was a positive gain.

It is supposedly always played at the weekend seminars to show how you must cooperate to do better, etc.


Options: ReplyQuote

Sorry, only registered users may post in this forum.
This forum powered by Phorum.