What affects whether you trust a friend? How about a stranger? Could the same things break our trust in both individuals? Join us in playing Bards and Bandits and see what affects your trust in those around you.

Join the experiment!

Download Bards and Bandits on iOS or Android!

In the menu:
Press the Student ID Button player button & enter: A Nickname
Press the Class Code Button class code button & enter: SXSW

Bards & Bandits explores a similar psychology experiment to the “Prisoner’s Dilemma”.

Players spend five rounds with an opponent, with each round an opportunity to either give a coin, or hold onto it. Here’s the rules:

  • If both players decide to give, they both magically gain two coins.
  • If one gives and the others hold, the holder steals the givers coin.
  • If both hold, no coins are gained.

It would be most mutually beneficial for both players to give every round, BUT, the winner of the match is whoever has the most coins after the final round. Players desire to win gets in the way of this cooperation, and chaos ensues!

Let’s take a look at some data:


How is trust affected by time spent with an individual?

By looking at the proportion of players who gave each round, we can assess if the average players willingness to cooperate increases or decreases or decreases each round.

Are players becoming more selfish over time, perhaps embittered by an early betrayal? Or becoming more generous, inspired by some early cooperation?

How does player behaviour change over total play time?

Looking at this graph we can assess if players are becoming more or less likely to cooperate as they collect more coins over total playtime.

Looking at the grouping of individuals we can see how players typically progress as they become more successful.

  • Bottom Left shows players with low total coins and low give actions.
  • Top Left is high total coins and low give actions.
  • Bottom Right is low total coins and high give actions.
  • Top Right is high total coins and high give actions.

How does character choice affect likelihood of being given coins?

Comparing the total coins given to players, grouped by gender and skin colour, we can sometimes see trends emerging.

Sometimes these graphs are very even, and other times the data suggests biases affect people’s decisions. 

In a classroom scenario where all students have played the same amount of matches we’d expect these values to remain fairly even. A large discrepancy in these values may suggest that players are subconsciously more willing to act cooperatively with some demographics and selfishly towards others.