# The Student's DilemmaThe Prisoner's Dilemma in the Classroom

National Endowment for the Humanities Seminar
Summer 1997

This page provides a scenario in which the Row player is one student in a class graded on a curve, and the Column player represents all the other students. This page is to assist either in explaining or in simulating the game during class, as discussed on the Prisoner's Dilemma page.

Game Theory in the Classroom
The Prisoner's Dilemma: The Student's Dilemma

Strategies and Payoffs, Verbal Form:

You are all in a class graded on a curve. One of the topics of the class (elasticity? the Hobbesian state of nature? kinship maps?) is very tough. The curve is strong, but not absolute.

• If you study that topic, and the others all study it too, you each receive a B+ on the test and you all get to go to a party (or study for another class or indulge in some other kind of preferred activity).

• If you don't study the topic, and the other's don't either, you each receive a B+ on the test, but you have no party.

• If you study, and the others don't, you get an A+; they each get a D, though they got to party.

• If you don't study, and the others do, you get a D and the party, and they each get an A+.

• Note that "A+" > "B+ w/party" > "B+" > "D w/party,"
and "B+ w/party" > average of "A+" and "D w/party"

Strategies and Payoffs, Normal Form:

 -------->Column Row Study Don't Study Study B+, B+ A+, D w/party Don't Study D w/party, A+ B+ w/party, B+ w/party