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Monday, November 26, 2012

Practical Applications of Social Models

Well, the Prisoner's Dilemma is certainly a useful arrow to have in one's quiver: I once had two students whom I knew had cheated on a test, but without any decisive proof. So I called one of them in alone to my office, implied he was the less guilty party, and offered a reduced penalty for a confession.

Man, it took the guy about two seconds to choose "defect."

2 comments:

  1. This has nothing to do with me venting about the Krugman post: Are you sure this is a good thing for you to do? When the police offer a plea bargain, I think that is horrible. It is coercing a confession. Suppose this kid were actually innocent, and you're telling him to confess and get a lighter punishment. What is the point of doing that? If you are already know he's guilty, why do you need a confession? If you don't know he's guilty, why is getting one under threat of a (marginally higher) punishment legit?

    I'm not asking as a shocked, shocked libertarian nutjob or something, I'm asking you just to explain why you did it. E.g. if you say, "Well when he confessed, I could read his body language etc. and tell that he wasn't making it up. It really did confirm my hunch," that's all I'm looking for.

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    Replies
    1. It was statistically obvious they had cheated (sat next to each other, got the exact same grade, same wrong answers), but without having actually seen them I wasn't sure if I could "get a conviction."

      And yes, the student's reaction was of someone who felt very guilty over what they had done, not someone who was being arm twisted into confessing.

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