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A dynamic epistemic characterization of backward induction without counterfactuals

  • Giacomo Bonanno

    (Department of Economics, University of California Davis)

The analysis of rational play in dynamic games is usually done within a static framework that specifies a player's initial beliefs as well as his disposition to revise those beliefs conditional on hypothetical states of information. We suggest a simpler approach, where the rationality of a player's choice is judged on the basis of the actual beliefs that the player has at the time he has to make that choice. We propose a dynamic framework where the set of "possible worlds" is given by state-instant pairs (w,t). Each state w specifies the entire play of the game and, for every instant t, (w,t) specifies the history that is reached at that instant (in state w). A player is said to be active at (w,t) if the history reached in state w at date t is a decision history of his. At every state-instant pair (w,t) the beliefs of the active player provide an answer to the question "what will happen if I take action a", for every available action a. A player is said to be rational at (w,t) if either he is not active there or the action he ends up taking at state w is "optimal" given his beliefs at (w,t). We provide a characterization of backward induction in terms of the following event: the first mover (i) is rational and has correct beliefs, (ii) believes that the active player at date 1 is rational and has correct beliefs, (iii) believes that the active player at date 1 believes that the active player at date 2 is rational and has correct beliefs, etc. Thus our epistemic characterization does not rely on dispositional belief revision or on (objective or subjective) counterfactuals.

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Paper provided by University of California, Davis, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 122.

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Length: 17
Date of creation: 18 Mar 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cda:wpaper:12-2
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  1. Ben-Porath, E., 1992. "Rationality, Nash Equilibrium and Backward Induction in Perfect Information Games," Papers 14-92, Tel Aviv - the Sackler Institute of Economic Studies.
  2. Pierpaolo Battigali & Giacomo Bonanno, . "Recent Results On Belief, Knowledge And The Epistemic Foundations Of Game Theory," Department of Economics 98-14, California Davis - Department of Economics.
  3. Pierpaolo Battigalli & Alfredo Di Tillio & Dov Samet, 2011. "Strategies and interactive beliefs in dynamic games," Working Papers 375, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  4. Stalnaker, Robert, 1996. "Knowledge, Belief and Counterfactual Reasoning in Games," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 12(02), pages 133-163, October.
  5. Halpern, Joseph Y., 2001. "Substantive Rationality and Backward Induction," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 425-435, November.
  6. Aumann, Robert J., 1995. "Backward induction and common knowledge of rationality," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 6-19.
  7. Balkenborg, Dieter & Eyal Winter, 1995. "A Necessary and Sufficient Epistemic Condition for Playing Backward Induction," Discussion Paper Serie B 331, University of Bonn, Germany.
  8. repec:cup:cbooks:9781107401396 is not listed on IDEAS
  9. Dov Samet, 1994. "Hypothetical Knowledge and Games with Perfect Information," Game Theory and Information 9408001, EconWPA, revised 17 Aug 1994.
  10. Battigalli, Pierpaolo & Siniscalchi, Marciano, 2002. "Strong Belief and Forward Induction Reasoning," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 106(2), pages 356-391, October.
  11. repec:cup:cbooks:9781107008915 is not listed on IDEAS
  12. Adam Brandenburger, 2007. "The power of paradox: some recent developments in interactive epistemology," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer, vol. 35(4), pages 465-492, April.
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