Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 50, Issue 1, pp 53–61

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

  • Harvey S. JamesJr.
  • Jeffrey P. Cohen

DOI: 10.1023/B:BUSI.0000020869.42655.f4

Cite this article as:
James, H.S. & Cohen, J.P. Journal of Business Ethics (2004) 50: 53. doi:10.1023/B:BUSI.0000020869.42655.f4


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 

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Harvey S. JamesJr.
    • 1
  • Jeffrey P. Cohen
    • 2
  1. 1.Agribusiness Research InstituteUniversity of MissouriColumbiaU.S.A.
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversity of HartfordWest HartfordU.S.A.

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