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Pre-play communication and credibility: A test of Aumann's conjecture


  • Gary Charness


The effectiveness of pre-play communication in achieving efficient outcomes has long been a subject of controversy. In some environments, cheap talk may help to achieve coordination. However, Aumann conjectures that, in a variant of the Stag Hunt game, a signal for efficient play is not self-enforcing and concludes that an "agreement to play [the efficient outcome] conveys no information about what the players will do." Harsanyi and Selten (1988) cite this example as an illustration of risk-dominance vs. payoff-dominance. Farrell and Rabin (1996) agree with the logic, but suspect that cheap talk will nonetheless achieve efficiency. The conjecture is tested with one-way communication. When the sender first chooses a signal and then an action, there is impressive coordination: a 94% probability for the potentially efficient (but risky) play, given a signal for efficient play. Without communication, efforts to achieve efficiency were unsuccessful, as the proportion of B moves is only 35%. I also test a hypothesis that the order of the action and the signal affects the results, finding that the decision order is indeed important. While Aumann’s conjecture is behaviorally disconfirmed when the signal is determined initially, the signal’s credibility seems to be much more suspect when the sender is known to have first chosen an action, and the results are not statistically distinguishable from those when there is no signal. Some applications and issues in communication and coordination are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Gary Charness, 1998. "Pre-play communication and credibility: A test of Aumann's conjecture," Economics Working Papers 293, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  • Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:293

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    Cited by:

    1. Antonio Cabrales & Rosemarie Nagel & Roc Armenter, 2007. "Equilibrium selection through incomplete information in coordination games: an experimental study," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 10(3), pages 221-234, September.
    2. Baliga, Sandeep & Morris, Stephen, 2002. "Co-ordination, Spillovers, and Cheap Talk," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 105(2), pages 450-468, August.
    3. Bohnet, Iris & Cooter, Robert, 2001. "Expressive Law: Framing or Equilibrium Selection?," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt5h6970h8, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
    4. Sandeep Baliga & Stephen Morris, 1998. "Cheap Talk and Co-ordination with Payoff Uncertainty," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1203, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.

    More about this item


    Cheap talk; coordination; credibility; experiment; Leex;

    JEL classification:

    • A13 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Social Values
    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D84 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Expectations; Speculations


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