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The neural basis of bounded rational behavior

  • Giorgio Coricelli


    (University of Southern California and Centre of Cognitive Neuroscience, Bron (Lyon), France.)

  • Rosemarie Nagel


    (Universitat Pomepu Fabra)

Bounded rational behaviour is commonly observed in experimental games and in real life situations. Neuroeconomics can help to understand the mental processing underlying bounded rationality and out-of-equilibrium behaviour. Here we report results from recent studies on the neural basis of limited steps of reasoning in a competitive setting – the beauty contest game. We use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study the neural correlates of human mental processes in strategic games. We apply a cognitive hierarchy model to classify subject’s choices in the experimental game according to the degree of strategic reasoning so that we can identify the neural substrates of different levels of strategizing. We found a correlation between levels of strategic reasoning and activity in a neural network related to mentalizing, i.e. the ability to think about other’s thoughts and mental states. Moreover, brain data showed how complex cognitive processes subserve the higher level of reasoning about others. We describe how a cognitive hierarchy model fits both behavioural and brain data.

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Paper provided by Department of Economic Theory and Economic History of the University of Granada. in its series ThE Papers with number 10/11.

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Length: 21 pages
Date of creation: 01 Oct 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:gra:wpaper:10/11
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  1. Selten, Reinhard, . "Features of Experimentally Observed Bounded Rationality," Discussion Paper Serie B 421, University of Bonn, Germany, revised Nov 1997.
  2. Bhatt, Meghana & Camerer, Colin F., 2005. "Self-referential thinking and equilibrium as states of mind in games: fMRI evidence," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 424-459, August.
  3. Vincent P. Crawford & Miguel A. Costa-Gomes, 2006. "Cognition and Behavior in Two-Person Guessing Games: An Experimental Study," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1737-1768, December.
  4. Colin F. Camerer & Teck-Hua Ho & Juin-Kuan Chong, 2004. "A Cognitive Hierarchy Model of Games," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(3), pages 861-898, August.
  5. Ho, Teck-Hua & Camerer, Colin & Weigelt, Keith, 1998. "Iterated Dominance and Iterated Best Response in Experimental "p-Beauty Contests."," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(4), pages 947-69, September.
  6. Nagel, Rosemarie, 1995. "Unraveling in Guessing Games: An Experimental Study," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1313-26, December.
  7. McCabe, Kevin & Houser, Daniel & Ryan, Lee & Smith, Vernon & Trouard, Ted, 2001. "A Functional Imaging Study of Cooperation in Two-Person reciprocal Exchange," MPRA Paper 5172, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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