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On Cognitive Ability and Learning in a Beauty Contest

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  • Oliver Schnusenberg
  • Andrés Gallo

Abstract

We reinvestigate a version of the beauty contest originally developed by Keynes (1936) with a focus on cognitive reflection. Using a sample of 166 undergraduate students at a regional university in Florida, we confirm previous research by Burnham et al. (2009) that cognitive reflection, as measured by Frederick's (2005) cognitive reflection test, matters in the first round of the game; players with a higher CRT score pick significantly lower numbers, and their responses cluster more. Unlike previous research, however, we find that cognitive ability is important only when faced with a new situation. In subsequent rounds of the game, cognitive ability is subordinate to a learning effect and players' responses and the variability of responses are not significantly related to CRT scores. This finding is important in financial markets, since it implies that anticipating the decisions and actions of other players is a function of experience, not necessarily cognitive ability.

Suggested Citation

  • Oliver Schnusenberg & Andrés Gallo, 2011. "On Cognitive Ability and Learning in a Beauty Contest," Journal for Economic Educators, Middle Tennessee State University, Business and Economic Research Center, vol. 11(1), pages 13-24, Summer.
  • Handle: RePEc:mts:jrnlee:v:11:y:2011:i:1:p:13-24
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    File URL: http://frank.mtsu.edu/~jee/2011/2_MS211_pp13to24.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Gary Klein, 1999. "Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262611465, January.
    2. Burnham, Terence C. & Cesarini, David & Johannesson, Magnus & Lichtenstein, Paul & Wallace, Björn, 2009. "Higher cognitive ability is associated with lower entries in a p-beauty contest," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 72(1), pages 171-175, October.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Duffy, Sean & Naddeo, JJ & Owens, David & Smith, John, 2016. "Cognitive load and mixed strategies: On brains and minimax," MPRA Paper 71878, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Cabrales, Antonio & Espin, Antonio & Kujal, Praveen & Rassenti, Stephen, 2017. "Humans' (incorrect) distrust of reflective decisions," CEPR Discussion Papers 11949, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Duffy, Sean & Smith, John, 2014. "Cognitive load in the multi-player prisoner's dilemma game: Are there brains in games?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 47-56.
    4. David Gill & Victoria Prowse, 2016. "Cognitive Ability, Character Skills, and Learning to Play Equilibrium: A Level-k Analysis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 124(6), pages 1619-1676.
    5. Chen, Chia-Ching & Chiu, I-Ming & Smith, John & Yamada, Tetsuji, 2013. "Too smart to be selfish? Measures of cognitive ability, social preferences, and consistency," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 112-122.
    6. Allred, Sarah & Duffy, Sean & Smith, John, 2016. "Cognitive load and strategic sophistication," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 125(C), pages 162-178.
    7. Katharina Eckartz & Christiane Ehses-Friedrich, 2014. "Strategic Communication: An Experimental Investigation," Jena Economic Research Papers 2014-007, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
    8. Shu-Heng Chen & Ye-Rong Du & Lee-Xieng Yang, 2014. "Cognitive capacity and cognitive hierarchy: a study based on beauty contest experiments," Journal of Economic Interaction and Coordination, Springer;Society for Economic Science with Heterogeneous Interacting Agents, vol. 9(1), pages 69-105, April.
    9. Gill, David & Prowse, Victoria, 2012. "Cognitive ability and learning to play equilibrium: A level-k analysis," MPRA Paper 38317, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 23 Apr 2012.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    beauty contest; cognitive reflection test; cognitive ability; CRT;

    JEL classification:

    • A22 - General Economics and Teaching - - Economic Education and Teaching of Economics - - - Undergraduate

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