IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Task Complexity, Equilibrium Selection, and Learning: An Experimental Study


  • Teck-Hua Ho

    (Anderson Graduate School of Management, University of California, Los Angeles, California 90095)

  • Keith Weigelt

    (The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104)


We consider several coordination games with multiple equilibria each of which is a different division of a fixed pie. Laboratory experiments are conducted to address whether "task complexity" affects the selection of equilibrium by subjects. Three measures of task complexity---cardinality of choice space, level of iterative knowledge of rationality, and level of iterative knowledge of strategy---are manipulated and tested. Results suggest the three measures can predict choice behavior. Since strategically equivalent games can have different task complexity measures, our results imply that subjects are sensitive to game form presentation. We also fit data using three adaptive learning models: 1) Cournot, 2) Fictitious Play, and 3) Payoff Reinforcement, in increasing order of required cognitive effort. The Fictitious Play model, which tracks only cumulative frequencies of opponents' past behaviors fits the data best.

Suggested Citation

  • Teck-Hua Ho & Keith Weigelt, 1996. "Task Complexity, Equilibrium Selection, and Learning: An Experimental Study," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 42(5), pages 659-679, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:42:y:1996:i:5:p:659-679

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Martin Neil Baily & Robert J. Gordon, 1988. "The Productivity Slowdown, Measurement Issues, and the Explosion of Computer Power," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 19(2), pages 347-432.
    2. Erik Brynjolfsson & Thomas W. Malone & Vijay Gurbaxani & Ajit Kambil, 1994. "Does Information Technology Lead to Smaller Firms?," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 40(12), pages 1628-1644, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Aradhna Krishna & M. Utku Ünver, 2008. "Research Note—Improving the Efficiency of Course Bidding at Business Schools: Field and Laboratory Studies," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 27(2), pages 262-282, 03-04.
    2. Yu Wang & Aradhna Krishna, 2006. "Timeshare Exchange Mechanisms," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 52(8), pages 1223-1237, August.
    3. Christina Fang & Sari Carp & Zur Shapira, 2011. "Prior Divergence: Do Researchers and Participants Share the Same Prior Probability Distributions?," Discussion Paper Series dp587, The Federmann Center for the Study of Rationality, the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.
    4. Bosch-Domènech, Antoni & Vriend, Nicolaas J., 2013. "On the role of non-equilibrium focal points as coordination devices," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 52-67.
    5. 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.
    6. Camerer, Colin F. & Ho, Teck-Hua, 2015. "Behavioral Game Theory Experiments and Modeling," Handbook of Game Theory with Economic Applications, Elsevier.
    7. Luhan, Wolfgang J. & Poulsen, Anders U. & Roos, Michael W.M., 2017. "Real-time tacit bargaining, payoff focality, and coordination complexity: Experimental evidence," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 687-699.
    8. Reina, Livia, 2003. "Negotiators' cognition: An experimental study on bilateral, integrative negotiation," Dresden Discussion Paper Series in Economics 05/03, Technische Universität Dresden, Faculty of Business and Economics, Department of Economics.
    9. McKinney, C. Nicholas & Van Huyck, John B., 2013. "Eureka Learning: Heuristics and response time in perfect information games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 79(C), pages 223-232.
    10. Teck-Hua Ho & Keith Weigelt, 2005. "Trust Building Among Strangers," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 51(4), pages 519-530, April.
    11. 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.
    12. Shafran, Aric P., 2012. "Learning in games with risky payoffs," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 75(1), pages 354-371.
    13. Chen, Yan & Khoroshilov, Yuri, 2003. "Learning under limited information," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 44(1), pages 1-25, July.
    14. Tse, Alan & Friesen, Lana & Kalaycı, Kenan, 2016. "Complexity and asset legitimacy in retirement investment," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 35-48.
    15. López-Pérez, Raúl & Pintér, Ágnes & Kiss, Hubert J., 2015. "Does payoff equity facilitate coordination? A test of Schelling's conjecture," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 209-222.
    16. Hwang, Joon Ho & Kim, Min-Su, 2015. "Misunderstanding of the binomial distribution, market inefficiency, and learning behavior: Evidence from an exotic sports betting market," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 243(1), pages 333-344.
    17. Lehmann-Waffenschmidt, Marco & Reina, Livia, 2003. "Coalition formation in multilateral negotiations with a potential for logrolling: An experimental analysis of negotiators' cognition processes," Dresden Discussion Paper Series in Economics 17/03, Technische Universität Dresden, Faculty of Business and Economics, Department of Economics.
    18. Wilfred Amaldoss & Sanjay Jain, 2002. "David vs. Goliath: An Analysis of Asymmetric Mixed-Strategy Games and Experimental Evidence," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 48(8), pages 972-991, August.
    19. Elie Ofek & Muhamet Yildiz & Ernan Haruvy, 2007. "The Impact of Prior Decisions on Subsequent Valuations in a Costly Contemplation Model," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 53(8), pages 1217-1233, August.
    20. Colin F. Camerer & Teck-Hua Ho & Juin-Kuan Chong, 2004. "A Cognitive Hierarchy Model of Games," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(3), pages 861-898.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:42:y:1996:i:5:p:659-679. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mirko Janc). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.