A Real Life "Prisoners’ Dilemma"
(For a description of the "Prisoners' Dilemma", please take a look at my blog entry of April 21, 2015.)
Imagine that you are in a car, navigating a stretch of road that barely accommodates your small vehicle. As you round a bend in the road, an oncoming car appears. What do you do? You could keep driving, in the hopes that the other driver will somehow get out of your way. (Caution: This may turn the exercise into a game of “Chicken”, rather than “Prisoners’ Dilemma”.) You could throw your car into reverse and back up the moment you see the other car. Or you could do what English drivers do, which is to cooperate. Both cars slow down, one driver edges into what barely qualifies as a pull-out, and then one car slowly passes the other, taking care to leave half an inch of clearance between side mirrors.
What Does This Have To Do With Mediation?
Although you have no reason to trust the driver of the other car, this process seems to work time and time again. Why? Because the alternatives – continuing to barrel down the road or panicking and backing up – are far less efficient for all involved.
This every-day occurrence provides another glimpse of the benefits of a cooperative mindset: Even where trust has not been earned or established, a minor concession can result in a relatively large gain to both parties.
* For an idea of what I mean by “narrow”, have a look at this YouTube video.