Cooperation in the Classroom: An Application of Repeated Prisoner's Dilemma
Jeffrey E. Russell
Ashland University - Dauch College of Business and Economics
February 2, 2004
Cooperative learning is an attractive teaching tool that can be problematic if rewards are used as the primary motivation for cooperation. In the absence of rewards, social cohesion is used to motivate cooperation. A repeated Prisoner's Dilemma game among small groups of undergraduate students is used to create a perverse reward structure where social cohesion is the only motivation for cooperation in the face of a rational decision to never cooperate. Panel data from this experiment is analyzed to determine the impact of group structure and individual and group characteristics on cooperative behavior. The expected pattern of initial cooperation followed by steady declines in cooperation is observed. The formation of groups significantly increases cooperative behavior; however, cooperation again declines following group formation. Male students are more cooperative in the absence of small group social forces. Gender becomes insignificant following group formation. Stronger students do not act more cooperatively given the perverse reward structure and weaker students do not act less cooperatively. Prior experiences in the group do not significantly impact cooperative behavior. Statistically significant results for control variables for the different sections suggest individual class personality remains a major factor in the success of cooperative learning that relies on social cohesion.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 22
JEL Classification: A22, C71, C91
Date posted: February 18, 2004