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Checkmate: Exploring backward induction among chess players

  • John List
  • Sally Sadoff
  • Steven Levitt

Although backward induction is a cornerstone of game theory, most laboratory experiments have found that agents are not able to successfully backward induct. We analyze the play of world-class chess players in the centipede game, which is ill-suited for testing backward induction, and in pure backward induction games--Race to 100 games. We find that chess players almost never play the backward induction equilibrium in the centipede game, but many properly backward induct in the Race to 100 games. We find no systematic within-subject relationship between choices in the centipede game and performance in pure backward induction games.

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Paper provided by The Field Experiments Website in its series Artefactual Field Experiments with number 00081.

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Date of creation: 2010
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Handle: RePEc:feb:artefa:00081
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.fieldexperiments.com

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  1. Miguel Costa-Gomes & Vincent P. Crawford, 2004. "Cognition And Behavior In Two-Person Guessing Games: An Experimental Study," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000143, UCLA Department of Economics.
  2. Asheim, Geir B, 2000. "Deductive reasoning in Extensive Games," Research Papers in Economics 2000:7, Stockholm University, Department of Economics.
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  12. Gary Bornstein & Tamar Kugler & Anthony Ziegelmeyer, 2002. "Individual and Group Decisions in the Centipede Game: Are Groups More “Rational” Players?," Discussion Paper Series dp298, The Federmann Center for the Study of Rationality, the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.
  13. Johnson, Eric J. & Camerer, Colin & Sen, Sankar & Rymon, Talia, 2002. "Detecting Failures of Backward Induction: Monitoring Information Search in Sequential Bargaining," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 104(1), pages 16-47, May.
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  15. Rosenthal, Robert W., 1981. "Games of perfect information, predatory pricing and the chain-store paradox," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 92-100, August.
  16. Dufwenberg, Martin & Sundaram, Ramya & Butler, David J., 2010. "Epiphany in the Game of 21," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 75(2), pages 132-143, August.
  17. Avinash Dixit, 2005. "Restoring Fun to Game Theory," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 36(3), pages 205-219, July.
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