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

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  • Giovanna Devetag

    ()

  • Massimo Warglien

    ()

Abstract

It has been suggested that players often produce simplified and/or misspecified mental representations of interactive decision problems (Kreps, 1990). We submit that the relational structure of players’ preferences in a game induces cognitive complexity, and may be an important driver of such simplifications. We provide a formal classification of order structures in two-person normal form games based on the two properties of monotonicity and projectivity, and present experiments in which subjects must first construct a representation of games of different relational complexity, and subsequently play the games according to their own representation. Experimental results support the hypothesis that relational complexity matters. More complex games are harder to represent, and this difficulty is correlated with measures of short term memory capacity. Furthermore, most erroneous representations are less complex than the correct ones. In addition, subjects who misrepresent the games behave consistently with such representations according to simple but rational decision criteria. This suggests that in many strategic settings individuals may act optimally on the ground of simplified and mistaken premises.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Cognitive and Experimental Economics Laboratory, Department of Economics, University of Trento, Italia in its series CEEL Working Papers with number 0504.

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Date of creation: 2005
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Handle: RePEc:trn:utwpce:0504

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Keywords: pure motive; mixed motive; preferences; bi-orders; language; cognition; projectivity; monotonicity; short term memory; experiments;

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  1. Costa-Gomes, Miguel & Crawford, Vincent P & Broseta, Bruno, 2001. "Cognition and Behavior in Normal-Form Games: An Experimental Study," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(5), pages 1193-1235, September.
  2. Knez, Marc & Camerer, Colin, 2000. "Increasing Cooperation in Prisoner's Dilemmas by Establishing a Precedent of Efficiency in Coordination Games," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 194-216, July.
  3. Rubinstein,Ariel, 2000. "Economics and Language," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521593069, October.
  4. Jacob K. Goeree & Charles A. Holt, 2000. "Ten Little Treasures of Game Theory and Ten Intuitive Contradictions," Virginia Economics Online Papers 333, University of Virginia, Department of Economics.
  5. Rubinstein, Ariel, 1996. "Why Are Certain Properties of Binary Relations Relatively More Common in Natural Language?," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(2), pages 343-55, March.
  6. Simon, Herbert A. & Schaeffer, Jonathan, 1992. "The game of chess," Handbook of Game Theory with Economic Applications, in: R.J. Aumann & S. Hart (ed.), Handbook of Game Theory with Economic Applications, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 1, pages 1-17 Elsevier.
  7. Colin Camerer & Teck-Hua Ho & Juin Kuan Chong, 2003. "A cognitive hierarchy theory of one-shot games: Some preliminary results," Levine's Bibliography 506439000000000495, UCLA Department of Economics.
  8. 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.
  9. Pillutla, Madan M. & Chen, Xiao-Ping, 1999. "Social Norms and Cooperation in Social Dilemmas: The Effects of Context and Feedback, , ," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 78(2), pages 81-103, May.
  10. Nagel, Rosemarie, 1993. "Experimental Results on Interactive Competitive Guessing," Discussion Paper Serie B 236, University of Bonn, Germany.
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Cited by:
  1. Ondrej Rydval, & Andreas Ortmann & Michal Ostatnicky, 2008. "Three Very Simple Games and What It Takes to Solve Them," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp347, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economic Institute, Prague.
  2. Giovanna Devetag & Sibilla Di Guida, 2010. "Feature-based Choice and Similarity in Normal-form Games: An Experimental Study," LEM Papers Series 2010/18, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
  3. Giovanna Devetag & Andreas Ortmann, 2006. "When and Why? A Critical Survey on Coordination Failure in the Laboratory," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp302, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economic Institute, Prague.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

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