In Search Of… The Wary Student, Part III: Experiments

Pack your bags, look to the stars, and prepare to go in search of…


These experiments will be described: one to measure positive cooperation (where the subject of the beneficance is is absolutely helped) in educational settings, one to measure neutral cooperation (where the subjectneither helped nor harmed), and one to measure negative cooperation (where the subject is absolutely harmed by the altruistic behavior).

Two games were studied as part of this research. Participants played an ultimatum game very similar to the one presented in The Wary Guerrilla and a cooperation game inspired by Alford & Hibbing (2006a). Before they played these games, subjects were randomly assigned into a high-cognitive load or a low-cognitive load condition. The experiment differed from both The Wary Guerrilla and Alford & Hibbing (2006a) in that the tasks were framed as part of a group project, instead of as an economic game. Framing effects have been observed before (Larrick & Blount, 1997), and may have their effect, because ultimatum game performance chances depending on the norms of a people (Henrich, et al., 2005) or a workplace (Kay, Wheeler, Bagh, & Ross, 2004).

Participants were seated at computers and told they were testing new interfaces for distance education. They were told that their actions in the first part of the experiment will only effect the grades of other students. However, they will have an opportunity to gain additional extra credit at a later part of the task. The participants were instructed that the students they were assisting was at another university institution, and that it was unlikely they would interact in daily life. After a structured introduction, the students were given a series of mathematical problems to solve both for themselves and for the other students. Which problem would help which student was clearly labeled.

The students were then informed that their task was over. They were informed that another portion of the experiment was to measure cooperative behavior in distance education classes. Unbeknownst to the student, the second portion of the experiment would be an ultimatum game, “where one of the players can firmly commit himself in advance under a heavy penalty that he will insist under all conditions upon a certain specified demand (which is called his ultimatum)” (Harsanyi, 1961, 190).

The participant was then informed that the other student was given the opportunity to split extra credit points with the participant. These extra credit points were designed to reward cooperative students. The participant was informed that the other student believed that a 4-to-1split of extra points was fair. If this was accepted, the other student’s point total would be raised by 4 extra credit points while the participant’s score would be raised by only one. Alternatively if the participant refused, neither would gain these additional extra credit points.

Next, participants were informed they would be able to “punish” the other student if they felt the other student had not behaved appropriately for any reason. (This behavior was discussed at length in The Wary Guerrilla).

In Search Of, a tdaxp series
1. Educational Psychology
2. Load and Behavior
3. Experiments
4. Conclusions
5. Bibliography

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