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Cognitive load in the multi-player prisoner's dilemma game

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  • Duffy, Sean
  • Smith, John

Abstract

We find that differences in the ability to devote cognitive resources to a strategic interaction imply differences in strategic behavior. In our experiment, we manipulate the availability of cognitive resources by applying a differential cognitive load. In cognitive load experiments, subjects are directed to perform a task which occupies cognitive resources, in addition to making a choice in another domain. The greater the cognitive resources required for the task implies that fewer such resources will be available for deliberation on the choice. Although much is known about how subjects make decisions under a cognitive load, little is known about how this affects behavior in strategic games. We run an experiment in which subjects play a repeated multi-player prisoner's dilemma game under two cognitive load treatments. In one treatment, subjects are placed under a high cognitive load (given a 7 digit number to recall) and subjects in the other are placed under a low cognitive load (given a 2 digit number). We find that the individual behavior of the subjects in the low load condition converges to the Subgame Perfect Nash Equilibrium prediction at a faster rate than those in the high load treatment. However, we do not find the corresponding relationship involving outcomes in the game. Specifically, there is no evidence of a significantly different convergence of game outcomes across treatments. As an explanation of these two results, we find evidence that low load subjects are better able to adjust their choice in response to outcomes in previous periods.

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  • Duffy, Sean & Smith, John, 2011. "Cognitive load in the multi-player prisoner's dilemma game," MPRA Paper 30856, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:30856
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    Cited by:

    1. Buckert, Magdalena & Oechssler, Jörg & Schwieren, Christiane, 2017. "Imitation under stress," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 139(C), pages 252-266.
    2. Jones, Matthew T., 2014. "Strategic complexity and cooperation: An experimental study," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 106(C), pages 352-366.
    3. Lohse, Johannes, 2016. "Smart or selfish – When smart guys finish nice," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 28-40.
    4. Hanna Fromell & Daniele Nosenzo & Trudy Owens, 2014. "Tradeoffs between Self-interest and Other-Regarding Preferences Cause Willpower Depletion," Discussion Papers 2014-14, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
    5. Paolo Crosetto & Marco Mantovani, 2012. "Availability of Information and Representation Effects in the Centipede Game," Jena Economic Research Papers 2012-051, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
    6. Allred, Sarah & Duffy, Sean & Smith, John, 2016. "Cognitive load and strategic sophistication," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 125(C), pages 162-178.
    7. Ondrej Rydval, 2011. "The Causal Effect of Cognitive Abilities on Economic Behavior: Evidence from a Forecasting Task with Varying Cognitive Load," Jena Economic Research Papers 2011-064, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
    8. Martinsson, Peter & Myrseth, Kristian Ove R. & Wollbrant, Conny, 2014. "Social dilemmas: When self-control benefits cooperation," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 213-236.
    9. Peter Martinsson & Kristian Ove R. Myrseth & Conny Wollbrant, 2012. "Reconciling pro-social vs. selfish behavior: On the role of self-control," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 7(3), pages 304-315, May.
    10. Sarah R., Allred & L. Elizabeth, Crawford & Sean, Duffy & John, Smith, 2015. "Working memory and spatial judgments: Cognitive load increases the central tendency bias," MPRA Paper 63520, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Kristian Ove R. Myrseth & Gerhard Riener & Conny Wollbrant, 2013. "Tangible temptation in the social dilemma: Cash, cooperation, and self-control," ESMT Research Working Papers ESMT-13-04, ESMT European School of Management and Technology.
    12. Allred, Sarah & Crawford, L. Elizabeth & Duffy, Sean & Smith, John, 2014. "Cognitive constraints increase estimation biases: Cognitive load and delay in judgments," MPRA Paper 58314, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    cognitive resources; experimental economics; experimental game theory; public goods game;

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior

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