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When are Nash equilibria self-enforcing? An experimental analysis


  • Kenneth Clark

    (School of Economic Studies, Faculty of Economic and Social Studies, Dover Street, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL.)

  • Stephen Kay

    (School of Economic Studies, Faculty of Economic and Social Studies, Dover Street, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL.)

  • Martin Sefton

    (School of Economic Studies, Faculty of Economic and Social Studies, Dover Street, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL.)


We investigate the effect of non-binding pre-play communication in experiments with simple two-player coordination games. We reproduce the results of other studies in which play converges to a Pareto-dominated equilibrium in the absence of communication, and communication moves outcomes in the direction of the Pareto-dominant equilibrium. However, we provide new results which show that the effectiveness of communication is sensitive to the structure of payoffs. Our results support an argument put forward by Aumann: agreements to play a Nash equilibrium are fragile when players have a strict preference over their opponent's strategy choice. We also find that informative communication does not necessarily lead to the Pareto-dominant equilibrium.

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  • Kenneth Clark & Stephen Kay & Martin Sefton, 2001. "When are Nash equilibria self-enforcing? An experimental analysis," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer;Game Theory Society, vol. 29(4), pages 495-515.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:jogath:v:29:y:2001:i:4:p:495-515 Note: Received: January 1997/Revised version: February 1997

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. John C. Harsanyi & Reinhard Selten, 1988. "A General Theory of Equilibrium Selection in Games," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262582384, July.
    2. Cooper, Russell, et al, 1990. "Selection Criteria in Coordination Games: Some Experimental Results," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(1), pages 218-233, March.
    3. Harsanyi John C., 1995. "A New Theory of Equilibrium Selection for Games with Incomplete Information," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 318-332, August.
    4. Russell Cooper & Douglas V. DeJong & Robert Forsythe & Thomas W. Ross, 1992. "Communication in Coordination Games," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(2), pages 739-771.
    5. Farrell, Joseph, 1988. "Communication, coordination and Nash equilibrium," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 209-214.
    6. Straub, Paul G., 1995. "Risk dominance and coordination failures in static games," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 35(4), pages 339-363.
    7. Roth, Alvin E, 1980. "Values for Games without Sidepayments: Some Difficulties with Current Concepts," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(2), pages 457-465, March.
    8. Ferreira, Jos e Luis, 1996. "A Communication-Proof Equilibrium Concept," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 249-257, January.
    9. Joseph Farrell & Matthew Rabin, 1996. "Cheap Talk," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(3), pages 103-118, Summer.
    10. Bernheim, B. Douglas & Peleg, Bezalel & Whinston, Michael D., 1987. "Coalition-Proof Nash Equilibria I. Concepts," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 42(1), pages 1-12, June.
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    JEL classification:

    • C71 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Cooperative Games


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