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Does Ethics Training Neutralize the Incentives of the Prisoner's Dilemma? Evidence from a Classroom Experiment

  • Harvey S. James Jr.

    (University of Missouri)

  • Jeffrey Cohen

    (University of Hartford)

Teaching economics has been shown to encourage students to defect in a prisoner's dilemma game. However, can ethics training reverse that effect and promote cooperation? We conducted an experiment to answer this question. We found that students who had the ethics module had higher rates of cooperation than students without the ethics module, even after controlling for communication and other factors expected to affect cooperation. We conclude that the teaching of ethics can mitigate the possible adverse incentives of the prisoner's dilemma, and, by implication, the adverse effects of economics and business training.

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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series General Economics and Teaching with number 0202002.

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Length: 17 pages
Date of creation: 04 Feb 2002
Date of revision: 12 Mar 2003
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpgt:0202002
Note: Type of Document - Microsoft Word; prepared on IBM PC; to print on HP; pages: 17; figures: none
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://128.118.178.162

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  1. Robert H. Frank & Thomas D. Gilovich & Dennis T. Regan, 1996. "Do Economists Make Bad Citizens?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(1), pages 187-192, Winter.
  2. Tullock, Gordon, 1999. "Non-prisoner's dilemma," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 39(4), pages 455-458, July.
  3. Robert H. Frank & Thomas Gilovich & Dennis T. Regan, 1993. "Does Studying Economics Inhibit Cooperation?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 7(2), pages 159-171, Spring.
  4. Becker, Gary S, 1993. "Nobel Lecture: The Economic Way of Looking at Behavior," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 385-409, June.
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