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Strategy choice and cognitive ability in field experiments

  • Abigail Barr
  • Jose Garcia-Montalvo
  • Magnus Lindelow
  • Pieter Serneels

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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Paper provided by The Field Experiments Website in its series Framed Field Experiments with number 00113.

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Date of creation: 2005
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Handle: RePEc:feb:framed:00113
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.fieldexperiments.com

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  1. Lindelow, Magnus & Serneels, Pieter, 2006. "The performance of health workers in Ethiopia: Results from qualitative research," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 62(9), pages 2225-2235, May.
  2. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., . "A theory of fairness, competition, and cooperation," Chapters in Economics, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  3. Nancy Buchan & Rachel Croson, 1999. "Gender and Culture: International Experimental Evidence from Trust Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 386-391, May.
  4. Axel Ockenfels & Gary E. Bolton, 2000. "ERC: A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 166-193, March.
  5. Jeannette Brosig & Joachim Weimann & Chun-Lei Yang, 2003. "The Hot Versus Cold Effect in a Simple Bargaining Experiment," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 6(1), pages 75-90, June.
  6. Oxoby, Robert J. & McLeish, Kendra N., 2004. "Sequential decision and strategy vector methods in ultimatum bargaining: evidence on the strength of other-regarding behavior," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 84(3), pages 399-405, September.
  7. Greig, Fiona & Bohnet, Iris, 2005. "Is There Reciprocity in a Reciprocal Exchange Economy? Evidence from a Slum in Nairobi, Kenya," Working Paper Series rwp05-044, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  8. Fischbacher, Urs & Gachter, Simon & Fehr, Ernst, 2001. "Are people conditionally cooperative? Evidence from a public goods experiment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 71(3), pages 397-404, June.
  9. Charness, Gary B & Brandts, Jordi, 1998. "Hot vs. Cold: Sequential Responses and Preference Stability in Experimental Games," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt4kx7d5pv, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  10. Blount, Sally & Bazerman, Max H., 1996. "The inconsistent evaluation of absolute versus comparative payoffs in labor supply and bargaining," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 227-240, August.
  11. Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher, . "Third Party Punishment and Social Norms," IEW - Working Papers 106, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  12. Guth, Werner & Huck, Steffen & Muller, Wieland, 2001. "The Relevance of Equal Splits in Ultimatum Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 161-169, October.
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