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In game theory, the stag hunt is a game that describes a conflict between safety and social cooperation. Other names for it or its variants include “assurance game”, “coordination game”, and “trust dilemma”. Jean-Jacques Rousseau described a situation in which two individuals go out on a hunt. Each can individually choose to hunt a stag or hunt a hare. Each player must choose an action without knowing the choice of the other. If an individual hunts a stag, he must have the cooperation of his partner in order to succeed. An individual can get a hare by himself, but a hare is worth less than a stag. This is taken to be an important analogy for social cooperation.
The stag hunt differs from the Prisoner’s Dilemma in that there are two pure strategy Nash equilibria: when both players cooperate and both players defect. In the Prisoner’s Dilemma, in contrast, despite the fact that both players cooperating is Pareto efficient, the only Nash equilibrium is when both players choose to defect.