Segments in this Video

Author Richard Dawkins on "The Selfish Gene" (03:45)


Zoologist Richard Dawkins explains his book "The Selfish Gene," an often misunderstood genetic analysis of animals. He discusses both left- and right-wing responses to his treatise.

Altruism and Cooperation in Nature (02:40)

Bees demonstrate the ultimate altruistic act: a bee gives its life to save the colony. Other symbiotic relationships exist in nature: reciprocal altruism, such as the relationship between clown fish and sea anemones.

Competitive Human Behavior (03:47)

Strategic human interactions, such as playing chess, have been modeled in mathematical terms called game theory. Examples are drawn from British football (soccer) games.

Game Dilemma: Conflict and Cooperation (04:48)

A game presents a dilemma for its players over trust and cooperation, and individual selfishness. The game represents many human social interactions in real life. The game is called the Prisoner's Dilemma.

Game Theory and Human Behavior (02:31)

In a game called the Prisoner's Dilemma, players must choose between cooperation or defection without consulting with each other. A psychologist analyzes decisions made by players based on the dilemma presented by the game.

Selfish Reasoning and the Tragedy of the Commons (03:42)

"The tragedy of the commons" is illustrated in a meadow where overgrazing results in the appearance of poisonous plants. This common land is beyond individual restraint. A single farmer owning the land would not overgraze it.

Repercussions of Individual Selfishness (01:57)

Human beings gradually ruin their greatest resource: the Earth. North Sea herring fishermen destroy every herring. Mankind hunts many species into extinction. The "prisoner's dilemma" explains irrational selfish behavior.

Regulation or "Law of the Jungle" (03:46)

Should governments force citizens to cooperate? In the animal world the "law of the jungle" prevails. Would this work with human beings? With a bird colony as his example, zoologist Richard Dawkins explains the dilemma of cheats and suckers.

Human Behavior: Games and Relationships (05:14)

Like relationships that exist in real life, repeated playing of the Prisoner's Dilemma game can result in strategies for mutual cooperation--of mutual selfishness. What causes humans to choose one over the other?

Computers and Game Theory (04:41)

An American political scientist tests computer programs designed to come up with the best strategy for playing Prisoner's Dilemma. Ultimately the programs that played "nice" won more games than those that employed "nasty" strategies.

Planned Cooperative Strategies Create Stability (02:19)

Computer graphics illustrate how planned strategies of "nice" and "nasty" players in a Prisoner's Dilemma game ultimately result in more "nice" strategies. In this way, animal populations flourish when more members cooperate.

Mutualism or Symbiotic Relationships in Nature (02:12)

Vampire bats share their blood meals with hungry bats with whom they've built relationships. Cleaner fish work without being eaten by their "customers." Is this behavior a model for "moral conduct?"

Benign Warfare During WWI: Non-Verbal Truces (04:47)

During WWI, cooperation between opposing armies "broke out like a disease" up and down the trenches. Overt truces were quashed, so soldiers ritualized warfare at times by shooting to miss and firing off course.

Stable Relationships in the Cold War (02:21)

The Cold War exemplifies "niceness" and "forgiveness" strategies that promote stable relationships.

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Nice Guys Finish First: Game Theory and the Quest for Mutual Cooperation

DVD Price: $300.00
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $450.00
3-Year Streaming Price: $300.00



The Selfish Gene is frequently misread as a biological justification for ruthless behavior. In this classic program, author Richard Dawkins sets the record straight through an exploration of selfishness and enlightened self-interest built upon evidence from the Prisoner’s Dilemma game and real-world non-zero-sum social situations. “The tragedy of the commons,” symbiotic behavior among animals, benign cooperation between stalemated armies during the First World War, and Robert Axelrod’s findings from his landmark Prisoner’s Dilemma computer program tournament are considered. Also, footage of a simple Prisoner’s Dilemma experiment being conducted is included. Original BBCW broadcast title: Nice Guys Finish First. (51 minutes)

Length: 50 minutes

Item#: BVL39153

ISBN: 978-1-4213-9094-9

Copyright date: ©1986

Closed Captioned

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