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Playing the wrong game: An experimental analysis of relational complexity and strategic misrepresentation

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  • Devetag, Giovanna
  • Warglien, Massimo

Abstract

It has been suggested that players often produce simplified and/or misspecified mental models of strategic decisions [Kreps, D., 1990. Game Theory and Economic Modeling. Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford]. We submit that the relational structure of players' preferences in a game is a source of cognitive complexity, and may be an important driver of such simplifications. We provide a classification of order structures in two-person games based on the properties of monotonicity and projectivity, and present experiments in which subjects construct representations of games of different relational complexity and subsequently play the games according to these representations. Experimental results suggest that relational complexity matters. More complex games are harder to represent, and this difficulty seems correlated with short term memory capacity. In addition, most erroneous representations are simpler than the correct ones. Finally, subjects who misrepresent the games behave consistently with such representations, suggesting that in many strategic settings individuals may act optimally on the ground of simplified and mistaken premises.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Games and Economic Behavior.

Volume (Year): 62 (2008)
Issue (Month): 2 (March)
Pages: 364-382

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Handle: RePEc:eee:gamebe:v:62:y:2008:i:2:p:364-382

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622836

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  1. Rubinstein,Ariel, 2000. "Economics and Language," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521593069, April.
  2. Devetag, Giovanna & Warglien, Massimo, 2003. "Games and phone numbers: Do short-term memory bounds affect strategic behavior?," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 189-202, April.
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Cited by:
  1. Rydval, Ondrej & Ortmann, Andreas & Ostatnicky, Michal, 2009. "Three very simple games and what it takes to solve them," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 72(1), pages 589-601, October.
  2. Giovanna Devetag & Andreas Ortmann, 2007. "When and why? A critical survey on coordination failure in the laboratory," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(3), pages 331-344, September.
  3. Andreas Nicklisch, 2006. "Perceiving strategic environments: An experimental study of learning under minimal information," Working Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2006_17, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
  4. Giovanna Devetag & Sibilla Di Guida, 2010. "Feature-based Choice and Similarity in Normal-form Games: An Experimental Study," DISA Working Papers 1007, Department of Computer and Management Sciences, University of Trento, Italy, revised 03 Nov 2010.
  5. Page, Lionel & Page, Katie, 2010. "Last shall be first: A field study of biases in sequential performance evaluation on the Idol series," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 73(2), pages 186-198, February.
  6. Huck, Steffen & Jehiel, Philippe & Rutter, Tom, 2011. "Feedback spillover and analogy-based expectations: A multi-game experiment," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 351-365, March.
  7. Andreas Nicklisch, 2011. "Learning strategic environments: an experimental study of strategy formation and transfer," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 71(4), pages 539-558, October.
  8. Sibilla Di Guida & Giovanna Devetag, 2013. "Feature-Based Choice and Similarity Perception in Normal-Form Games: An Experimental Study," Games, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 4(4), pages 776-794, December.

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