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A Computer Simulation Comparing the Incentive Structures of Dictatorships and Democracies


Journal of Political Science Education Volume 7, Number 2, ISSN 1551-2169


The draw of simulations is that by replicating a simplified version of reality they can illustrate the repercussions that individual choices create. Students can play the role of a judge, an ambassador, or a parliamentarian and can experience first hand how their decisions play out. As a discipline, we assume that such practices are an improvement over textbook-based lectures. However, sometimes the difficulty implicit in designing and implementing large-scale or semester-long simulations can be a tangible drawback to their adoption. This article discusses the use of simple, small-scale computer-based simulations or games and argues that they can be used as an uncomplicated way of implementing active learning goals. The authors argue that small-scale simulations can be used as a discreet, one-time game that assists student comprehension of complex theoretical concepts. In order to assess the effectiveness of the simulation, the authors conducted a randomized experiment where participants were assigned to a traditional classroom lecture or a class using a computer game simulation. Student performance was evaluated by a posttest and a delayed posttest. Results show strong evidence that epigrammatic simulations are as effective as traditional classroom lectures in the short run and produce better concept retention in the long run. (Contains 1 figure, 2 tables, and 3 notes.)


Nishikawa, K.A. & Jaeger, J. (2011). A Computer Simulation Comparing the Incentive Structures of Dictatorships and Democracies. Journal of Political Science Education, 7(2), 135-142. Retrieved February 23, 2020 from .

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