Strategy choice and cognitive ability in field experiments
We explore the value of the strategy method to field experimentalists. Specifically, we demonstrate that, while the method may lead to reductions in subject understanding, it also generates valuable insights. We played the Third Party Punishment Game and the Generalized Trust Game with Ethiopian medical and nursing students applying the strategy method to the responding role in each case. Then, making use of two proxy measures for the students` cognitive abilities, we investigate the relationship between strategy-type choices and subject understanding. Thus, we find support for the assertion that apparently random and internally inconsistent strategies are symptomatic of problems of cognition. We also find support for the often, implicitly made assumption that, in BDM-type trust games, the ratio of what is returned to what is sent is an appropriate focus for comparative analyses of responder behaviour. Finally, we find evidence that an observed difference in third party punishing behaviour between Swiss and Ethiopian students is due, not to misunderstanding, but to variations in what is perceived as punishable. Our results lead us to conclude that the strategy method is of considerable value in Third Party Punishment Games, but need not be routinely applied in BDM-type trust games.
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