Fun Psychology Games

Updated April 17, 2017

There are many fun psychology games available to students of the subject, people interested in exploring psychological concepts or for a client and therapist to explore part of the treatment plan. These games can be conducted online or in person with readily available household items. Many of these games are good introductions to psychological concepts.

The Pairing Game

Students in a psychology class, or any group familiar with concepts of mate selection and social exchange, can play the Pairing Game. Players are randomly given an index card with a numerical value or adjective on it that are placed on their forehead without knowledge of the value. Each player has a different number or adjective to describe themselves. Then participants interact with everyone in the room and try to match up with the player of the highest perceivable value, without an understanding of their own. The instructor, or an observer who can see everyone's cards, can then lead a discussion about the results, applying psychological concepts and observations. A common result is that people will be similarly matched, with numbers close in value or adjectives shown to have similar cultural value, even if they do not know it.


Psychology professor Joe Wayand shared an activity that he describes as requiring a little courage, which is an activity on authority and conformity in the classroom using a video on obedience. He starts playing the video, which describes many concepts related to authority, when he knows there is less class time than the video's running time. When it is time for class to end, he tells students that it would be beneficial to stay a little late to watch the end of the film. As this continues, at incremental points as the students get more restless, he gets more blatantly authoritative in asking them to stay until it is well past dismissal and his requests become bullying. At this point most students are in on the trick and the next classroom session begins with a discussion of how the students reacted to it, with many saying they realised they respond to requests for conformity more than they realised.

Prisoner's Dilemma

A game called Prisoner's Dilemma pairs people who imagine they have collaborated to commit a crime. The pairs are put in separate areas and interrogated, given the options that they can pin the crime on their partner and get off completely. If both choose to remain loyal to their partner and remain silent, they earn more points by receiving a reduced, equal sentence.

Tragedy of the Commons

A psychology game dealing with selfish behaviour and renewable resources is inspired by and named after Garrett Hardin's "Tragedy of the Commons" paper. Four players volunteer to come to the front of the room near a table with a bowl filled with 10 of any object (pennies, paper clips and erasers work well.) The players are told that every 10 seconds the bowl will be refilled with the number of objects left remaining in the bowl, then that the object of the game is to get as many of the pennies or erasers as possible. Typically, this game results in players paying more attention to the second rule than the first, collecting all of the objects. This leads to a psychological discussion of why humans tend to take more than they need and players can brainstorm solutions.

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About the Author

Mateo Zeske has written professionally for over five years, including articles for "High School Sports," the industrial "How to Get Started with a Talent Agency" and community-oriented e-zines. As a filmmaker Zeske worked with production companies Hit It and Quit It, Road Dog Productions and masterminded the series "Bastardized Product." He holds a Master of Journalism from the University of North Texas.