IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Cognitive skills, strategic sophistication, and life outcomes


  • Eduardo Fe
  • David Gill
  • Victoria Prowse


We investigate how childhood cognitive skills affect strategic sophistication and adult outcomes. In particular, we emphasize the importance of childhood theory-of-mind as a cognitive skill. We collected experimental data from more than seven hundred children in a variety of strategic interactions. First, we find that theory-of-mind ability and cognitive ability both predict level-k behavior. Second, older children respond to information about the cognitive ability of their opponent, which provides support for the emergence of a sophisticated strategic theory-of-mind. Third, theory-of-mind and age strongly predict whether children respond to intentions in a gift-exchange game, while cognitive ability has no influence, suggesting that different measures of cognitive skill correspond to different cognitive processes in strategic situations that involve understanding intentions. Using the ALSPAC birth-cohort study, we find that childhood theory-of-mind and cognitive ability are both associated with enhanced adult social skills, higher educational participation, better educational attainment, and lower fertility in young adulthood. Finally, we provide evidence that school spending improves theory-of-mind in childhood.
(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)

Suggested Citation

  • Eduardo Fe & David Gill & Victoria Prowse, 2021. "Cognitive skills, strategic sophistication, and life outcomes," Purdue University Economics Working Papers 1329, Purdue University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:pur:prukra:1329

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Gisèle Umbhauer, 2021. "Minimax regret in the 11-20 money request game," Working Papers of BETA 2021-48, Bureau d'Economie Théorique et Appliquée, UDS, Strasbourg.
    2. Martín Iñaki Loriente & Juan Cruz Diez, 2023. "Perfect Bayesian Equilibrium in Kuhn Poker," Young Researchers Working Papers 10, Universidad de San Andres, Departamento de Economia, revised Oct 2023.
    3. John A. List & Ragan Petrie & Anya Samek, 2023. "How Experiments with Children Inform Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 61(2), pages 504-564, June.
    4. Zvonimir Bašić & Parampreet C. Bindra & Daniela Glätzle-Rützler & Angelo Romano & Matthias Sutter & Claudia Zoller, 2021. "The Roots of Cooperation," ECONtribute Discussion Papers Series 097, University of Bonn and University of Cologne, Germany.
    5. Alessandra Cassar & Alejandrina Cristia & Pauline Grosjean & Sarah Walker, 2022. "It Makes a Village: Allomaternal Care and Prosociality," Discussion Papers 2022-06, School of Economics, The University of New South Wales.
    6. Germ'an Reyes, 2023. "Cognitive Endurance, Talent Selection, and the Labor Market Returns to Human Capital," Papers 2301.02575,
    7. Larbi Alaoui & Katharina A. Janezic & Antonio Penta, 2022. "Coordination and sophistication," Economics Working Papers 1849, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
    8. Cubel, María & Sanchez-Pages, Santiago, 2022. "Gender differences in equilibrium play and strategic sophistication variability," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 194(C), pages 287-299.
    9. Piotr Evdokimov & Umberto Garfagnini, 2023. "Cognitive Ability and Perceived Disagreement in Learning," Rationality and Competition Discussion Paper Series 381, CRC TRR 190 Rationality and Competition.
    10. Alaoui, Larbi & Janezic, Katharina A. & Penta, Antonio, 2022. "Coordination and Sophistication," TSE Working Papers 22-1394, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    11. Castagnetti, Alessandro & Proto, Eugenio & Sofianos, Andis, 2023. "Anger impairs strategic behavior: A Beauty-Contest based analysis," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 213(C), pages 128-141.
    12. Zvonimir Bašic & Parampreet C. Bindra & Daniela Glätzle-Rützler & Angelo Romano & Matthias Sutter & Claudia Zoller, 2024. "The roots of cooperation," Discussion Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2024_02, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
    13. Thomas Buser & Rafael Ahlskog & Magnus Johannesson & Philipp Koellinger & Sven Oskarsson, 2021. "Using Genes to Explore the Effects of Cognitive and Non-cognitive Skills on Education and Labor Market Outcomes," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 21-088/I, Tinbergen Institute, revised 29 Mar 2023.
    14. Henning Hermes & Daniel Schunk, 2022. "If you could read my mind–an experimental beauty-contest game with children," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 25(1), pages 229-253, February.
    15. March, Christoph, 2021. "Strategic interactions between humans and artificial intelligence: Lessons from experiments with computer players," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 87(C).
    16. Gill, David & Prowse, Victoria L., 2021. "The Creativity Premium," IZA Discussion Papers 14421, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    17. Isabelle Brocas & Juan Carrillo, 2022. "The centipede game at school: does developing backward induction logic drive behavior?," Artefactual Field Experiments 00761, The Field Experiments Website.
    18. Larbi Alaoui & Katharina A. Janezic & Antonio Penta, 2022. "Coordination and Sophistication," Working Papers 1372, Barcelona School of Economics.
    19. Drouvelis, Michalis & Pearce, Graeme, 2023. "Is there a link between intelligence and lying?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 206(C), pages 182-203.
    20. Brocas, Isabelle & Carrillo, Juan D., 2022. "Adverse selection and contingent reasoning in preadolescents and teenagers," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 133(C), pages 331-351.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:pur:prukra:1329. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no bibliographic references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Business PHD (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service. RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.