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."


  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.

    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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