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Abstract Laboratory Games as a Method of Assessing Cooperative and Exploitative Behavior in Prisoners (From International Center for Comparative Criminology, V 2 - The Criminology Personality, P 135-163, 1977, Alice Parizeau, ed. - See NCJ-70503)

NCJ Number
K Wiewiorowski
Date Published
37 pages
The use of laboratory games for studying prisoners' interpersonal relationships, the principles of such games, and results of investigations of prisoners' game behavior are described.
Three dyadic, four-strategy abstract games are employed to induce conflict situation experimentally. Games involve choices by a decision maker and a randomly selected partner to measure cooperative and exploitative behavior. Players contribute and collect payoffs in cigarettes; in the separate games the subject either gets a larger or a smaller payoff than he contributed or a payoff equal to his contribution. Each game sets in motion conflicting motives: 1) competitive motivation (increasing the difference between the player's payoffs and those of his partner), 2) the player's desire to increase his own individual payoffs, and 3) the cooperative desire to improve both partners' payoffs. The study sample consists of 211 inmates ages 18 to 62 divided into groups of 6 to 18 persons. Independent variables measured are informal position in the prison group and type of partner in the game. Dependent variables are behavior in behalf of others and exploitive or altruistic behavior during the game. Results suggest that young adults are most likely to act in the interest of fellow prisoners, while recidivists are least cooperative and most likely to exploit their fellows. In both populations subjects accepted by their groups show the highest levels of cooperation and altruism. Different degrees of behavior in behalf of others by rejected subjects of both groups are attributed to variations in the strictness of subcultural divisions and sociometric categorization (strict divisions among young adults and elastic division among recidivists). Young adults tend to cooperate most with the closest partners and to be least cooperate most with the closest partners and to be least cooperative with prisoners from other prison groups. In comparison, recidivists are most cooperative with inmates from other groups. Longitudinal observation of changes in behavior, attitudes, and cognitive structures resulting from imprisonment are planned. Tables and a 7-item bibliography are supplied.-- in English.


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