Teaching the Prisoner's Dilemma More Effectively: Engaging the Students

19 Pages Posted: 21 Dec 2012  

Michael A. McPherson

University of North Texas - Department of Economics

Michael Nieswiadomy

University of North Texas - Department of Economics

Date Written: December 18, 2012

Abstract

We introduce a simple but particularly compelling prisoner’s dilemma classroom experiment that can be used in a variety of settings to demonstrate issues surrounding cooperative behavior (e.g., oligopoly, advertising, and public corruption). The prisoner’s dilemma occurs in all 21 class sections in our experiment. This experiment is more likely to engage students in two ways. The “payoff” in the game involves the possibility of students earning a small number of extra points. Also, we find that presenting experimental results to students enhances their interest in the material. For example, we find evidence that female students are less likely to “defect” than are male students, and that international students are more likely and seniors less likely to “defect.” Classroom discussions are greatly enhanced as a result.

Keywords: classroom experiment, prisoner's dilemma, behavioral economics

JEL Classification: A22, C92, D01

Suggested Citation

McPherson, Michael A. and Nieswiadomy, Michael, Teaching the Prisoner's Dilemma More Effectively: Engaging the Students (December 18, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2191685 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2191685

Michael A. McPherson (Contact Author)

University of North Texas - Department of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 311457
Denton, TX 76203-1457
United States

Michael Nieswiadomy

University of North Texas - Department of Economics ( email )

Denton, TX 76203-1457
United States
940-565-2244 (Phone)
940-565-4426 (Fax)

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