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A group of students is given playing cards to put on their head. They do not know the value of their card but can see the value of others.

The goal of each student is to partner with the highest value card they can find.

Experiment results indicated that students were able to infer their value from the number of approaches they received, and tended to partner with values similar to their own.

This study was cited in a popular science book published a few years ago - can anyone remember the book title or name the experiment? Many thanks.

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I did not find a textbook that mentioned this activity, but I found several articles that describe this Pairing Game. Ellis & Kelly (1999) describe two variations on the game and its use in the classroom. Lewis & Gurung (2003) describe expanding the original game in order to teach additional relationship and social psychology theories. Elias & Pratkanis (2006) review a range of in-class psychology exercises, including the Lewis and Gurung paper. Eastwick & Buck (2014) describe making the game more complicated (but also more realistic) by incorporating a social relations model.

  • Eastwick, P. W., & Buck, A. A. (2014). Too Much Matching A Social Relations Model Enhancement of the Pairing Game. Teaching of Psychology, 41(3), 246-250.
  • Elias, S. M., & Pratkanis, A. R. (2006). Teaching social influence: Demonstrations and exercises from the discipline of social psychology. Social Influence, 1(2), 147-162.
  • Ellis, B. J., & Kelley, H. H. (1999). The pairing game: A classroom demonstration of the matching phenomenon. Teaching of Psychology, 26(2), 118-121.
  • Lewis, B. P., & Gurung, R. A. (2003). Mixing, matching, and mating: Demonstrating the effect of contrast on relationship satisfaction. Teaching of Psychology, 30(4), 303-306.
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