The Economics Network

Improving economics teaching and learning for over 20 years

A prisoner's dilemma classroom activity (video case study)

Students in a Principles of Economics class are given a choice to Collude or Defect. But, there is a twist.

  • If everyone chooses collude, all students get 10 bonus points in the final exam.
  • If everyone chooses collude, but one student defects, that person gets 50 bonus points in the final exam, and no other student gets any points.
  • If more than 1 person chooses to defect, no student receives any bonus points.
  • And these are REAL bonus points, not pretend.
  • There are about 550 students in class, and all of them vote with iClickers (automated response systems)

Watch the video to see what happens.

Here are the slides used in the activity.

See also the interview with Vasquez in the November 2018 Teach Better podcast which discusses in depth his approach to active learning.