Cognitive Science: An Introduction/Psychology Methods

Psychology's primary methodology is hypothesis testing through empirical experiments on participants.

There are several methods you should be familiar with.

Economic GamesEdit

The Dictator GameEdit

In the Dictator Game, one participant is given some amount of a resource (say, $100), and they decide how much of it they get to keep, and how much of it some other participant gets to keep.

If people were completely selfish, they would not give the other person any money. However, experiments find that people tend to give something to the other person in the Dictator Game.

The Ultimatum GameEdit

In the Ultimatum Game, one participant is given some amount of a resource (say, $100), and they give an offer of some amount of that resource to the other participant. That other participant then gets to either accept the offer, which results in both people getting the money offered in the deal, or rejecting the offer, which results in nobody getting any money at all.

If people were completely selfish, they would accept any offer given to them, even if it was just $1. Chimpanzees do this. But studies of human beings consistently show that people get insulted by very low offers and will reject them. This is usually interpreted as a desire to self-sacrifice in order to reinforce prosocial norms or morality.

The Public Goods GameEdit

In the Public Goods Game, several participants (say, four) are given some amount of some resource (say, $5). They are given an opportunity to put some of their resource toward a common project. Whatever goes into the project gets doubled and then distributed equally among the participants—regardless of their contribution.[1]

What's best for everyone is if everyone puts in all of their own resource. But what someone can do is keep their $5 and benefit from everyone else putting their money in. As such, this game is intended to be a representation of real-life situations such as donating blood, paying taxes, or caring for a public park.

Undergraduat participants tend to donate 40-60% into the common project, but many people give 100% (cooperators), and many contribute 0% (free riders). The faster people are required to make a decision, the more they tend to give.[1]

The Prisoner's DilemmaEdit



  1. a b Henrich, J. (2017). The Secret of Our Success: How Culture is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating our Species, and Making Us Smarter. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Page 192.