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Superstition and Rational Learning

  • Drew Fudenberg
  • David K Levine

We argue that some but not all superstitions can persist when learning is rational and players are patient, and illustrate our argument with an example inspired by the code of Hammurabi. The code specified an “appeal by surviving in the river” as a way of deciding whether an accusation was true, so it seems to have relied on the superstition that the guilty are more likely to drown than the innocent. If people can be easily persuaded to hold this superstitious belief, why not the superstitious belief that the guilty will be struck dead by lightning? We argue that the former can persist but the latter cannot by giving a partial characterization of the outcomes that arise as the limit of steady states with rational learning as players become more patient. These “subgame-confirmed Nash equilibria” have self-confirming beliefs at information sets reachable by a single deviation. According to this theory a mechanism that uses superstitions two or more steps off the equilibrium path, such as “appeal by surviving in the river,” is more likely to persist than a superstition where the false beliefs are only one step off of the equilibrium path.

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Paper provided by David K. Levine in its series Levine's Working Paper Archive with number 618897000000000731.

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Date of creation: 16 Jul 2005
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Handle: RePEc:cla:levarc:618897000000000731
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.dklevine.com/

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  1. Kreps, David M & Wilson, Robert, 1982. "Sequential Equilibria," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(4), pages 863-94, July.
  2. Drew Fudenberg & David K. Levine, 1993. "Steady State Learning and Nash Equilibrium," Levine's Working Paper Archive 373, David K. Levine.
  3. Philippe Jehiel & Dov Samet, 2001. "Learning To Play Games In Extensive Form By Valuation," NajEcon Working Paper Reviews 391749000000000010, www.najecon.org.
  4. Levine, David & Fudenberg, Drew, 1997. "Measuring Players' Losses in Experimental Games," Scholarly Articles 3160492, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  5. Fudenberg, Drew & Levine, David K., 1999. "Conditional Universal Consistency," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 29(1-2), pages 104-130, October.
  6. Eddie Dekel & Drew Fudenberg & David K. Levine, . "Payoff Information and Self-Confirming Equilibrium," ELSE working papers 040, ESRC Centre on Economics Learning and Social Evolution.
  7. Drew Fudenberg & David K. Levine, 1996. "Measuring Subject’s Losses in Experimental Games," Levine's Working Paper Archive 370, David K. Levine.
  8. Fudenberg, Drew & Levine, David K, 1993. "Self-Confirming Equilibrium," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 61(3), pages 523-45, May.
  9. Aumann, Robert J, 1987. "Correlated Equilibrium as an Expression of Bayesian Rationality," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(1), pages 1-18, January.
  10. Drew Fudenberg & David M. Kreps & David K. Levine, 1986. "On the Robustness of Equilibrium Refinements," UCLA Economics Working Papers 398, UCLA Department of Economics.
  11. Ariel Rubinstein & Asher Wolinsky, 1991. "Rationalizable Conjectural Equilibrium: Between Nash and Rationalizability," Discussion Papers 933, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  12. Fudenberg, Drew & Kreps, David M., 1995. "Learning in extensive-form games I. Self-confirming equilibria," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 20-55.
  13. Hart, Sergiu, 2002. "Evolutionary dynamics and backward induction," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 41(2), pages 227-264, November.
  14. Foster, Dean P. & Vohra, Rakesh V., 1997. "Calibrated Learning and Correlated Equilibrium," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 21(1-2), pages 40-55, October.
  15. Ehud Kalai & Alejandro Neme, 1989. "The Strength of a Little Perfection," Discussion Papers 858, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  16. Aoyagi, Masaki, 1996. "Evolution of Beliefs and the Nash Equilibrium of Normal Form Games," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 70(2), pages 444-469, August.
  17. G. Noldeke & L. Samuelson, 2010. "An Evolutionary Analysis of Backward and Forward Induction," Levine's Working Paper Archive 538, David K. Levine.
  18. Lambson, Val E. & Probst, Daniel A., 2004. "Learning by matching patterns," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 398-409, February.
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