PurposeTherapeutic communities (TCs) assume that residents are capable of working together to overcome substance abuse and criminal behavior. Economic games allow us to study the potential of cooperative behavior in TC residents. The paper aims to discuss this issue.Design/methodology/approachThe authors analyze results from a sample of 85 corrections-based TC residents and a comparison group of 45 individuals drawn from the general population who participated in five well-known economic experiments – the dictator game, the ultimatum game, the trust game, risk attitude elicitation and time preference elicitation.FindingsTC residents keep less money in the dictator game and return more in the trust game, and prefer short-term rewards in the time preference elicitation. In the ultimatum game, nearly half of all residents refuse offers that are either too low or too high.Research limitations/implicationsWhile the study involves a sample from one TC and a comparison group, the results suggest that residents are at least comparable to the general public in generosity and appear willing on average to repay trust. A substantial minority may have difficulty accepting help.Practical implicationsRapid peer feedback is of value. Residents will be willing to offer help to peers. The TC environment may explain residents’ tendency to return money in the trust game. Residents who refuse to accept offers that are either too low or too high in the ultimatum game may also have difficulty in accepting help from peers.Social implicationsEconomic games may help to clarify guidelines for TC clinical practice.Originality/valueThis is the first use of economic games with TC residents.
Therapeutic Communities: The International Journal of Therapeutic Communities – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jun 11, 2018
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