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Classroom Games: A Prisoner's Dilemma


  • Charles A. Holt
  • Monica Capra


Game theory is often introduced in undergraduate courses in the context of a prisoner's dilemma paradigm, which illustrates the conflict between social incentives to cooperate and private incentives to defect. We present a very simple card game that efficiently involves a large number of students in a prisoner's dilemma. The extent of cooperation is affected by the payoff incentives and by the nature of repeated interaction. The exercise can be used to stimulate a discussion of a wide range of topics such as bankruptcy, quality standards, or price competition.
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Suggested Citation

  • Charles A. Holt & Monica Capra, 2000. "Classroom Games: A Prisoner's Dilemma," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 31(3), pages 229-236, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jeduce:v:31:y:2000:i:3:p:229-236 DOI: 10.1080/00220480009596781

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Cooper, Russell & DeJong, Douglas V. & Forsythe, Robert & Ross, Thomas W., 1996. "Cooperation without Reputation: Experimental Evidence from Prisoner's Dilemma Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 187-218, February.
    2. Dawes, Robyn M & Thaler, Richard H, 1988. "Anomalies: Cooperation," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 187-197, Summer.
    3. C. Monica Capra, 1999. "Anomalous Behavior in a Traveler's Dilemma?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(3), pages 678-690, June.
    4. Roth, Alvin E, 1988. "Laboratory Experimentation in Economics: A Methodological Overview," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 98(393), pages 974-1031, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Andreas Ortmann, 2003. "Bertrand Price Undercutting: A Brief Classroom Demonstration," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 34(1), pages 21-26, January.
    2. Timothy L. Sorenson, 2002. "Theory And Practice In The Classroom: A Repeated Game Of Multimarket Oligopoly," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 20(3), pages 316-329, July.
    3. Mark Schneider & Jonathan W. Leland, 2015. "Reference dependence, cooperation, and coordination in games," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 10(2), pages 123-129, March.
    4. Jeroen Hinloopen & Adriaan Soetevent, 2008. "From Overt to Tacit Collusion," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 08-059/1, Tinbergen Institute.
    5. Deck, Cary & Jahedi, Salar, 2015. "An experimental investigation of time discounting in strategic settings," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 95-104.
    6. Cary Deck & Salar Jahedi, 2014. "People Do Not Discount Heavily in Strategic Settings, but They Believe Others Do," Working Papers 14-11, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
    7. Uri Benzion & Yochanan Shachmurove & Joseph Yagil, 2004. "Subjective discount functions - an experimental approach," Applied Financial Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(5), pages 299-311.
    8. Melo, L, 2010. "Earth magnetism and the economic behavior," MPRA Paper 21656, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Uri Benzion & Yochanan Shachmurove & Joseph Yagil, 2003. "How good is the Exponential Function discounting Formula? An Experimental Study," PIER Working Paper Archive 03-015, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior


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