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The Winner of Our Prisoner’s Dilemma Contest Is …

We ran a contest asking readers to submit the one question they’d ask to help pick a partner for the Prisoner’s Dilemma.

Then we had a special treat: the University of Chicago economist John List (whose writings, by the way, were the inspiration for the contest) agreed to comb through the 350+ entries and choose the Top 5. He did a great job, explaining the logic behind each choice. Here are his Top 5 choices:

1. “How old are you?”

2. “What is the number of ethics courses you’ve taken, minus the number of economics courses you’ve taken?”

3. “Given that you are in a bar, would you prefer to pursue the most attractive person in the bar, or would your efforts focus on someone less attractive?”

4. “What is the name and address of your most cherished family member?”

5. “Have you read Freakonomics?”

Then we asked you to vote on the best answer. (Btw, here’s an interesting blog post dissecting the choices.) The winner was clear: Question No. 4, with 35 percent of the vote.

The runners-up were: No. 2 (24 percent), No. 3 (23 percent), No. 1 (16 percent), and No. 5 (2 percent).

I am surprised that so many people went for No. 4 — the question that implicitly threatened physical harm. Why was this so? It may be that as much as we modernists embrace the notion of “conflict resolution,” what we really want is simply conflict.

So congratulations to Charles, who submitted the question, and will get to pick his favorite piece of Freakonomics schwag.