Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 50, Issue 1, pp 53-61

First online:

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

  • Harvey S. JamesJr.Affiliated withAgribusiness Research Institute, University of Missouri
  • , Jeffrey P. CohenAffiliated withDepartment of Economics, University of Hartford

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


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.

experimental game theory impact of ethics training prisoner's dilemma game