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Comparative Statics of a Signaling Game: An Experimental Study

  • Potters, Jan
  • van Winden, Frans

In this paper a simple and basic signaling game is studied in an experimental environment. First, we check whether we can replicate some of the findings in the literature concerning equilibrium selection and the use and impact of costly signals. Second, and foremost, the comparative statics implications of the game are studied. The experimental results are related to the predictions of two competing behavioral models: a game model, in which subjects are assumed to behave in line with (refined) sequential equilibrium theory, and a decision model, in which subjects are assumed to behave as non-strategic decision makers. The experimental outcomes replicate the finding in the literature that costly messages are sent more frequently by 'higher' sender types (whose information is such that persuasion is also profitable to the responder), and that such messages have an impact on the behavior of the responder. These results are consistent with (versions of) both the game model and the decision model. The comparative statics results, however, clearly point in the direction of the decision model. Play is most strongly affected by 'own' payoff parameters, as predicted by the decision model, and less so by opponent's payoff parameters, as predicted by the mixed strategies of the refined sequential equilibrium. Particularly, a decision model in which players are assumed to adapt beliefs about opponents' choice probabilities in response to experience in previous play, appears to succeed best in organizing the data.

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Article provided by Springer in its journal International Journal of Game Theory.

Volume (Year): 25 (1996)
Issue (Month): 3 ()
Pages: 329-53

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Handle: RePEc:spr:jogath:v:25:y:1996:i:3:p:329-53
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  1. Wittman, Donald, 1985. "Counter-intuitive results in game theory," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 77-89.
  2. In-Koo Cho & David M. Kreps, 1997. "Signaling Games and Stable Equilibria," Levine's Working Paper Archive 896, David K. Levine.
  3. Camerer, Colin & Weigelt, Keith, 1988. "Experimental Tests of a Sequential Equilibrium Reputation Model," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(1), pages 1-36, January.
  4. Yun Joo Jung & John H. Kagel & Dan Levin, 1994. "On the Existence of Predatory Pricing: An Experimental Study of Reputation and Entry Deterrence in the Chain-Store Game," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 25(1), pages 72-93, Spring.
  5. Davis, Douglas D. & Holt, Charles a., 1993. "Experimental economics: Methods, problems and promise," Estudios Económicos, El Colegio de México, Centro de Estudios Económicos, vol. 8(2), pages 179-212.
  6. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1991. "Adaptive and sophisticated learning in normal form games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 3(1), pages 82-100, February.
  7. Brandts, Jordi & Holt, Charles A, 1992. "An Experimental Test of Equilibrium Dominance in Signaling Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(5), pages 1350-65, December.
  8. Mookherjee Dilip & Sopher Barry, 1994. "Learning Behavior in an Experimental Matching Pennies Game," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 62-91, July.
  9. Kagel, John H & Roth, Alvin E, 1992. "Theory and Misbehavior in First-Price Auctions: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(5), pages 1379-91, December.
  10. Brandts, Jordi & Holt, Charles A, 1993. "Adjustment Patterns and Equilibrium Selection in Experimental Signaling Games," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer, vol. 22(3), pages 279-302.
  11. Neral, John & Ochs, Jack, 1992. "The Sequential Equilibrium Theory of Reputation Building: A Further Test," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(5), pages 1151-69, September.
  12. Banks Jeffrey & Camerer Colin & Porter David, 1994. "An Experimental Analysis of Nash Refinements in Signaling Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 1-31, January.
  13. Cadsby, Charles B & Frank, Murray & Maksimovic, Vojislav, 1990. "Pooling, Separating, and Semiseparating Equilibria in Financial Markets: Some Experimental Evidence," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 3(3), pages 315-42.
  14. Cho, In-Koo & Sobel, Joel, 1990. "Strategic stability and uniqueness in signaling games," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 381-413, April.
  15. Potters, Jan & van Winden, Frans, 1992. " Lobbying and Asymmetric Information," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 74(3), pages 269-92, October.
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