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What Happens in the Field Stays in the Field: Exploring Whether Professionals Play Minimax in Laboratory Experiments

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  • Steven D. Levitt
  • John A. List
  • David H. Reiley, Jr.

Abstract

The minimax argument represents game theory in its most elegant form: simple but with stark predictions. Although some of these predictions have been met with reasonable success in the field, experimental data have generally not provided results close to the theoretical predictions. In a striking study, Palacios-Huerta and Volij (2007) present evidence that potentially resolves this puzzle: both amateur and professional soccer players play nearly exact minimax strategies in laboratory experiments. In this paper, we establish important bounds on these results by examining the behavior of four distinct subject pools: college students, bridge professionals, world-class poker players, who have vast experience with high-stakes randomization in card games, and American professional soccer players. In contrast to Palacios-Huerta and Volij’s results, we find little evidence that real-world experience transfers to the lab in these games—indeed, similar to previous experimental results, all four subject pools provide choices that are generally not close to minimax predictions. We use two additional pieces of evidence to explore why professionals do not perform well in the lab: (1) complementary experimental treatments that pit professionals against preprogrammed computers, and (2) post-experiment questionnaires. The most likely explanation is that these professionals are unable to transfer their skills at randomization from the familiar context of the field to the unfamiliar context of the lab.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15609.

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Date of creation: Dec 2009
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15609

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  1. GlennW. Harrison & JohnA. List, 2008. "Naturally Occurring Markets and Exogenous Laboratory Experiments: A Case Study of the Winner's Curse," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 118(528), pages 822-843, 04.
  2. Haigh, Michael S. & List, John A., 2002. "Do Professional Traders Exhibit Myopic Loss Aversion? An Experimental Analysis," Working Papers 28554, University of Maryland, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
  3. Ignacio Palacios-Huerta, 2003. "Professionals Play Minimax," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 70(2), pages 395-415, 04.
  4. Ignacio Palacios-Huerta & Oscar Volij, . "Experientia Docet: Professionals Play Minimax In Laboratory Experiments," Economic theory and game theory 019, Oscar Volij.
  5. Robert W. Rosenthal & Jason Shachat & Mark Walker, 2003. "Hide and seek in Arizona," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer, vol. 32(2), pages 273-293, December.
  6. Glenn Harrison & John List, 2004. "Field experiments," Artefactual Field Experiments 00058, The Field Experiments Website.
  7. Ernst Fehr & John List, 2004. "The hidden costs and returns of incentives - trust and trustworthiness among ceos," Artefactual Field Experiments 00044, The Field Experiments Website.
  8. Spiliopoulos, Leonidas, 2008. "Do repeated game players detect patterns in opponents? Revisiting the Nyarko & Schotter belief elicitation experiment," MPRA Paper 6666, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  9. Jason Shachat & J. Todd Swarthout, 2003. "Do We Detect and Exploit Mixed Strategy Play by Opponents?," Experimental 0310001, EconWPA.
  10. Mark Walker & John Wooders, 2001. "Minimax Play at Wimbledon," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1521-1538, December.
  11. John Wooders, 2010. "Does Experience Teach? Professionals and Minimax Play in the Lab," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 78(3), pages 1143-1154, 05.
  12. P.-A. Chiappori, 2002. "Testing Mixed-Strategy Equilibria When Players Are Heterogeneous: The Case of Penalty Kicks in Soccer," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 1138-1151, September.
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Cited by:
  1. Cason, Timothy N. & Friedman, Daniel & Hopkins, Ed, 2010. "Testing the TASP: An experimental investigation of learning in games with unstable equilibria," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 145(6), pages 2309-2331, November.
  2. Spiliopoulos, Leonidas, 2013. "Beyond fictitious play beliefs: Incorporating pattern recognition and similarity matching," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 81(C), pages 69-85.
  3. Kocher, Martin G. & Lenz, Marc V. & Sutter, Matthias, 2010. "Psychological Pressure in Competitive Environments: Evidence from a Randomized Natural Experiment: Comment," IZA Discussion Papers 4846, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. repec:fee:wpaper:1101 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Michalis Drouvelis & Alejandro Saporiti & Nicolaas J. Vriend, 2011. "Political Motivations and Electoral Competition: Equilibrium Analysis and Experimental Evidence," Working Papers 682, Queen Mary, University of London, School of Economics and Finance.
  6. Florian Englmaier & Georg Gebhardt, 2011. "Free-Riding in the Lab and in the Field," CESifo Working Paper Series 3612, CESifo Group Munich.
  7. Kocher, Martin G. & Lenz, Marc V. & Sutter, Matthias, 2010. "Psychological pressure in competitive environments: Evidence from a randomized natural experiment: Comment," Discussion Papers in Economics 11445, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  8. Charness, Gary & Gneezy, Uri & Kuhn, Michael A., 2013. "Experimental methods: Extra-laboratory experiments-extending the reach of experimental economics," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 91(C), pages 93-100.
  9. Okano, Yoshitaka, 2013. "Minimax play by teams," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 77(1), pages 168-180.
  10. Brice Corgnet & Roberto Hernán-González & Stephen Rassenti, 2011. "Real Effort, Real Leisure and Real-time Supervision: Incentives and Peer Pressure in Virtual Organizations," Working Papers 11-05, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
  11. Spiliopoulos, Leonidas, 2012. "Pattern recognition and subjective belief learning in a repeated constant-sum game," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 75(2), pages 921-935.

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