Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | November 20, 2008

A Breakthrough in the Dismal Science ?

A circular e-mail from my colleague George Wilmers:

Two economists have recently won the 2008 Arrow Prize in Economic Analysis and
Policy for a paper providing scientific evidence that (i) studying improves the learning outcomes of college students, and (ii) having a college roommate who plays video games adversely affects academic performance.

So now we can encourage our students to work with a clear conscience that,
statistically at least, we are not wasting their time.

The paper in the B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy



  1. Judging by the incredible speed (the paper submitted in November, accepted in May, published in June 2008, some time since then the prize was awarded and the news spread), one can indeed suspect a revolutoionary breakthrough.

    As any radical innovation, this one would probably draw scores of adepts preaching to the students that the most sure way to improve their grades is to study. Expect campus rallies and boycott of conservative teachers not aligned with the new trends.

    Yet any serious scientist should give this news a time break to make sure that it is not a hoax, like many other discoveries reported by unreliable sources.

  2. If this paper and the associated prize are really a hoax as Sergei suggests above that they might be, then the hoax is a remarkably elaborate one, since reference to the prize is made not only on the official BE press site above, but also on the University of Western Ontario website at
    where one of the authors, Todd R Stinebrickner is a faculty member. The reference also occurs on Todd Stinebrickner’s own homepage at

    Whether or not the paper is a hoax I think we can therefore reasonably conclude that once again truth has been proved stranger than fiction, although the proof itself would not as yet satisfy a sceptic who only accepts intuitionist logic.

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