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Ultimate dictators

By David, 14 November 2017 Activity

Julius caesar offers you some smartiesPsychologists often use simple games to determine how people make decisions when sharing and saving rewards, such as cash. In this case, we’ll explore the game of dictators using chocolate!

You will need

  • Lots of small chocolate lollies, such as smarties.
  • A group of people
  • Coin
  • Pad of paper and a pencil

What to do

Note: there are many games here – you might only play one or two, depending on how many volunteers and chocolates you have.

 

The dictator game

  1. Find a pair of volunteers.
  2. Secretly flip a coin to determine who to nominate as the dictator.
    Give the dictator 10 lollies.
  3. Tell the dictator to divide the lollies into two piles – one to keep and one to give to the other volunteer.
  4. three smarties have been broken away from a group of tenRecord how many lollies they give away, if any.
  5. Repeat this with other groups. You can also try swapping roles between the two players to see what impact the first game has on the second dictator’s decision.

 

The trust game

  1. Find a pair of volunteers.
  2. Secretly flip a coin to determine who to nominate as the first player.
  3. Give the first player six lollies.
  4. four smarties have broken off from a group of 6

    Tell the first player to divide the lollies into two piles – one to keep and one to give to the other volunteer. Tell them that you will triple the lollies they give away, and that the second player will have a chance to give some lollies back.
  5. eight more smarties join the fourGive the second player their lollies, and add double that on top.
  6. six break off an rejoin the first group

    Ask the second player to divide their lollies into two piles – one to keep and one to give back to the first player.
  7. Record how many tokens they share, if any.
  8. Repeat this with other groups.

 

The ultimatum game

  1. two smarties break off from a group of 10

    Perform the dictator game, only this time with a twist.
  2. both groups of smarties are crossed outTell the second player they can reject the offer if they like. If they reject the offer, no-one gets any lollies.
  3. Record the offer and whether it was rejected or accepted.
  4. Repeat this with other groups.

 

What’s happening?

In the past, economists thought people made mostly logical decisions about risk and rewards based on their own, individual interests. People who didn’t think this way were odd, irrational, or a bit stupid.

Psychologists have used games like this to discover there is more to our financial decision making than meets the eye. Economics is as much – if not more – about human social interactions as it is about what we stand to lose or gain.

As you play these games you may find examples of broken trust, altruism (selflessness and charity), revenge, and cooperation.

Why not try recording other details about participants, such as how well they know one another, or their gender, to see if you find some patterns.

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