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Lessons Learned: Generalizing Learning Across Games

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  • David Cooper
  • John H. Kagel

Abstract

This paper synthesizes findings from an ongoing research program on learning in signaling games. The present paper focuses on crossgame learning (the ability of subjects to take what has been learned in one game and generalize it to related games), an issue that has been ignored in most of the learning literature. We begin by laying out the basic experimental design and recapitulating early results characterizing the learning process. We then report results from an initial experiment in which we find a surprising degree of positive cross-game learning, contrary to the predictions of commonly employed learning models and to the findings of cognitive psychologists. We next explore two features of the environment that help to explain when and why this positive transfer occurs. First, we examine the effects of abstract versus meaningful context, an issue that has been largely ignored by economists out of the belief that behavior is largely dictated by the deep mathematical structure of a game. In contrast, results from cognitive psychology suggest that behavior may well be sensitive to context employed. Our results show that the use of meaningful context serves as a catalyst for positive transfer. Second, we explore how play by two-person teams differs from play by individuals. The psychology literature is quite pessimistic about the ability of teams to beat a "truth wins" standard based on performance of individuals. But teams easily surpass this norm in our cross-game experiment. We use the dialogues between team members to gain insight into how this transfer occurs, gaining direct confirmation for hypotheses generated by econometric analysis of earlier data.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 93 (2003)
Issue (Month): 2 (May)
Pages: 202-207

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:93:y:2003:i:2:p:202-207

Note: DOI: 10.1257/000282803321947056
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References

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  1. Cooper, David J., 2008. "Learning in Entry Limit Pricing Games," Handbook of Experimental Economics Results, Elsevier.
  2. Paul Milgrom & John Roberts, 1998. "Limit Pricing and Entry Under Incomplete Information: An Equilibrium Analysis," Levine's Working Paper Archive 245, David K. Levine.
  3. David Cooper & John Kagel, 2008. "Learning and transfer in signaling games," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 34(3), pages 415-439, March.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Sander Onderstal & Florian Englmaier & Pablo Guillen & Loreto Llorente & Rupert Sausgruber, 2004. "The Chopstick Auction: A Study of the Exposure Problem in Multi-Unit Auctions," Working Papers 2004.10, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  2. Friederike Mengel & Emanuela Sciubba, 2010. "Extrapolation in Games of Coordination and Dominance Solvable Games," Working Papers 2010.148, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  3. Grossman, Zachary & Owens, David, 2012. "An unlucky feeling: Overconfidence and noisy feedback," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 510-524.
  4. Grimm, Veronika & Mengel, Friederike, 2012. "An experiment on learning in a multiple games environment," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 147(6), pages 2220-2259.
  5. Jordi Brandts & David J. Cooper & Enrique Fatas, 2006. "Leadership and Overcoming Coordination Failure with Asymmetric Costs," Working Papers 298, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  6. Haruvy, Ernan & Stahl, Dale O., 2012. "Between-game rule learning in dissimilar symmetric normal-form games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 74(1), pages 208-221.
  7. Robert Slonim, 2005. "Competing Against Experienced and Inexperienced Players," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 8(1), pages 55-75, April.
  8. Georgia Kosmopoulou & Dakshina G. De Silva, 2005. "The Effect of Shill Bidding upon Prices: Experimental Evidence," Experimental 0512002, EconWPA.
  9. Sausgruber, Rupert & Tyran, Jean-Robert, 2011. "Are we taxing ourselves?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(1), pages 164-176.
  10. Chou, Eileen & McConnell, Margaret & Nagel, Rosemarie & Plott, Charles R., 2007. "The control of game form recognition in experiments: Understanding dominant strategy failures in a simple two person “Guessing” game," Working Papers 1274, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  11. David J. Cooper & John H. Kagel, 2005. "Are Two Heads Better Than One? Team versus Individual Play in Signaling Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(3), pages 477-509, June.
  12. Rick, Scott & Weber, Roberto A., 2010. "Meaningful learning and transfer of learning in games played repeatedly without feedback," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 716-730, March.

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