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Should Political Scientists Use the Self-Confirming Equilibrium Concept? Explaining the Choices of Cognitively Limited Actors

  • Lupia, Arthur
  • Zharinova, Natasha
  • Levine, Adam Seth

Many claims about political behavior are based on implicit assumptions about human reasoning. One such assumption, that political actors think in complex and similar ways when assessing strategies, is nested within widely used game theoretic equilibrium concepts. Empirical research casts doubt on the validity of these assumptions in important cases. For example, the finding that some citizens expend limited cognitive energy to social concerns runs counter to the assumption that citizens (e.g., jurors) base all decisions on complex thoughts. Similarly, evidence that some political actors (e.g., Democrats and Republicans) think about political cause-and-effect quite differently runs against the assumption that all players reason about politics in similar ways. The self-confirming equilibrium (SCE) concept provides a means for evaluating the robustness of theoretical conclusions to the introduction of a broad range of psychological assumptions. Through arguments and examples, we explain opportunities and challenges inherent in using the SCE concept. We find that the concept provides an improved foundation for more serious and constructive interactions between formal theoretic and psychology-oriented literatures.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 1618.

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Date of creation: 28 Jan 2007
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:1618
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  1. Fudenberg, D. & Levine, D.K., 1991. "Self-Confirming Equilibrium ," Working papers 581, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  2. David Kreps & Robert Wilson, 1998. "Sequential Equilibria," Levine's Working Paper Archive 237, David K. Levine.
  3. Harsanyi, John C, 1995. "Games with Incomplete Information," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(3), pages 291-303, June.
  4. Drew Fudenberg & David K. Levine, 1998. "The Theory of Learning in Games," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262061945, June.
  5. Dekel, Eddie & Fudenberg, Drew & Levine, David K., 1999. "Payoff Information and Self-Confirming Equilibrium," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 89(2), pages 165-185, December.
  6. Aumann, Robert J., 1974. "Subjectivity and correlation in randomized strategies," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 67-96, March.
  7. D. B. Bernheim, 2010. "Rationalizable Strategic Behavior," Levine's Working Paper Archive 514, David K. Levine.
  8. McKelvey Richard D. & Palfrey Thomas R., 1995. "Quantal Response Equilibria for Normal Form Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 6-38, July.
  9. Dekel, Eddie & Fudenberg, Drew & Levine, David K., 2004. "Learning to play Bayesian games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 282-303, February.
  10. Aumann, Robert & Brandenburger, Adam, 1995. "Epistemic Conditions for Nash Equilibrium," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(5), pages 1161-80, September.
  11. Fudenberg, Drew & Kreps, David M., 1995. "Learning in extensive-form games I. Self-confirming equilibria," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 20-55.
  12. Timothy Feddersen & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 1996. "Convicting the Innocent: The Inferiority of Unanimous Jury Verdicts," Discussion Papers 1170, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
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