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The Evolution of 'Theory of Mind': Theory and Experiments

  • Erik O. Kimbrough
  • Nikolaus Robalino
  • Arthur J. Robson

This paper provides an evolutionary foundation for our capacity to attribute preferences to others. This ability is intrinsic to game theory, and is a key component of "Theory of Mind", perhaps the capstone of social cognition. We argue here that this component of theory of mind allows organisms to efficiently modify their behavior in strategic environments with a persistent element of novelty. Such environments are represented here by multistage games of perfect information with randomly chosen outcomes. "Theory of Mind" then yields a sharp, unambiguous advantage over less sophisticated, behavioral approaches to strategic interaction. In related experiments, we show the subscale for social skills in standard tests for autism is a highly significant determinant of the speed of learning in such games.

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File URL: http://www.dklevine.com/archive/refs4786969000000000735.pdf
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Paper provided by David K. Levine in its series Levine's Working Paper Archive with number 786969000000000735.

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Date of creation: 19 Sep 2013
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Handle: RePEc:cla:levarc:786969000000000735
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.dklevine.com/

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  1. Charness, Gary & Rabin, Matthew, 2002. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt3d04q5sm, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  2. Jacob Goeree & Thomas Palfrey & Brian Rogers, 2004. "Self-Correcting Information Cascades," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000153, UCLA Department of Economics.
  3. Daniel T. Knoepfle & Joseph Tao-yi Wang & Colin F. Camerer, 2009. "Studying Learning in Games Using Eye-Tracking," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 7(2-3), pages 388-398, 04-05.
  4. Crawford, Vincent P. & Iriberri, Nagore, 2005. "Level-k Auctions: Can a Non-Equilibrium Model of Strategic Thinking Explain the Winner's Curse and Overbidding in Private-Value Auctions?," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt12586197, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
  5. Smith, Vernon L, 1982. "Microeconomic Systems as an Experimental Science," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(5), pages 923-55, December.
  6. Arthur J. Robson, 2001. "Why Would Nature Give Individuals Utility Functions?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(4), pages 900-929, August.
  7. Arthur J. Robson & Hillard S. Kaplan, 2003. "The Evolution of Human Life Expectancy and Intelligence in Hunter-Gatherer Economies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 150-169, March.
  8. Mohlin, Erik, 2010. "Evolution of Theories of Mind," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 0728, Stockholm School of Economics, revised 12 May 2010.
  9. McCabe, Kevin A. & Rassenti, Stephen J. & Smith, Vernon L., 1998. "Reciprocity, Trust, and Payoff Privacy in Extensive Form Bargaining," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 24(1-2), pages 10-24, July.
  10. McCabe, Kevin A. & Rigdon, Mary L. & Smith, Vernon L., 2003. "Positive reciprocity and intentions in trust games," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 267-275, October.
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