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Imperfect recall and time inconsistencies: an experimental test of the absentminded driver “paradox”

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  • M. Levati
  • Matthias Uhl
  • Ro’i Zultan

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Abstract

Absentmindedness is a special case of imperfect recall, in which a single history includes more than one decision node in an information set. Put differently, players, after making a decision, sometimes face it again without recalling having ‘been there before’. Piccione and Rubinstein (Game Econ Behav 20(1):3–24, 1997b ) have argued that absentmindedness may lead to time inconsistencies. Specifically, in certain cases, a player’s optimal strategy as calculated when called to choose an action (the action stage) deviates from the optimal strategy as calculated in a preceding planning stage, although preferences remain constant and no new information is revealed between the two stages. An alternative approach assumes that the player maximizes expected payoff in the action stage while considering his actions at other decision nodes to be immutable. With this approach, no time inconsistencies arise. The present paper explores this issue from a behavioral point of view. We elicit participants’ strategies in an experimental game of absentmindedness, separately for a planning stage and an action stage. We find systematic and robust time inconsistencies under four variations of the experiment and using ten different parameterizations of the game. We conclude that real decisions under absentmindedness without commitment are susceptible to time inconsistencies. Copyright Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Suggested Citation

  • M. Levati & Matthias Uhl & Ro’i Zultan, 2014. "Imperfect recall and time inconsistencies: an experimental test of the absentminded driver “paradox”," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer;Game Theory Society, vol. 43(1), pages 65-88, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:jogath:v:43:y:2014:i:1:p:65-88
    DOI: 10.1007/s00182-013-0373-y
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Keywords

    Imperfect recall; Absentmindedness; Dynamic inconsistency; Experiment;

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness

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