TGIF – Prisoners Cooperate More Than Students

August 16, 2013 by Bill Bradley

As the week winds down, we wind down with some tidbits for your information, education, health, and enjoyment.


Quote of the Week: “If you want to be incrementally better: Be competitive. If you want to be exponentially better: Be cooperative.” Unknown

Humor Break: The grade school baseball coach is speaking to one of his players. The coach asks, “Do you understand what cooperation is? What a team is?” The little boy nods in the affirmative.

“Do you understand that what matters is whether we win together as a team?”  Again the little boy nods yes.

“So,” the coach continues, “when a strike is called, or you’re out at first, you don’t argue or curse or attack the umpire. Do you understand all that?”  The little boy nods his head again.

“Good,” said the coach. “Now go over there and explain it to your parents.”

Stat of the Week: Sometimes the Stat of the Week is meaningful. Today it is more whimsical. What good is a fact if you can’t have some fun with it? For 60 years there has existed a classic cooperation test that especially titillated behavioral economists. It is called the Prisoner’s Dilemma. The humorous side of this story begins when researchers recently realized this simulation had never been tried on prisoners. So a comparison was set up between female prisoners and female college students. Prisoners solved their dilemma through cooperation: 55% compared with 37% of students.

Action Tip: Today’s Stat is a good example in my battle against facts. Besides being interesting and quirky what do today’s stat facts show? One prevailing hypothesis is that prisoners need to cooperate more with each other to survive in their environment. Students need to cheat to stay ahead in theirs. One thing for sure, we would need a lot more “facts” before we reach that conclusion. So today’s tip is, just because you have a set of facts, don’t get too set in your hypothesis (beliefs). Want more, read Ken Nowack’s Monday column when he brings us up-to-date on his occasional Management Facts posts. More often than not he presents at least one set of contradictory studies using facts to prove their point. Both use competing facts to “prove” opposite points of view.  We often see what we want to get.

Self-Development Corner: This week’s Coursera courses tend to run toward the highly technical, but our readership needs are diverse, so for those of you with technical needs consider an introduction to electrical systems, Linear Circuits (August 19, 9 weeks, Georgia Tech); using the Python language, Learn to Program: The Fundamentals (August 19, 7 weeks, University of Toronto); a first introduction to differential and integral calculus, Calculus I: (August 23, 14 weeks, The Ohio State University); introduction to fundamental data types, algorithms, and data structures, Algorithms, Part I (August 23, 7 weeks, Princeton University).

It is also not too late to sign up for the excellent, excellent Social Psychology course that started this week. So far there are a little over 200,000 enrolled in this class, but there are still a few seats available. This is online learning at its best.  Join in the fun.

Happy Learning!

Bill Bradley (mostly) retired after 35 years in organizational consulting, training and management development. During those years he worked internally with seven organizations and trained and consulted externally with more than 90 large and small businesses, government agencies, hospitals and schools.

Posted in Engagement

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  1. Love the quote of the week and the humor break…great way to start my day.

    Thanks…have a good weekend.


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