Theses Doctoral

Essays in Experimental Economics

Ward, Jeremy

This dissertation comprises three essays in experimental economics. The first investigates the extent of strategic behaviour in jury voting models. Existing experimental evidence in jury voting models shows subjects largely act in accordance with theoretical predictions, implying that they have the insight to condition their votes upon their own pivotality. The experiment presented here tests the extent of these abilities, finding that a large portion of subjects behave consistently with such insight in the face of several variations on the basic jury voting game, but largely fail to do so in another, perhaps due to the difficulty of extracting informational implications from counterintuitive strategies.

The second investigates the extent to which hypothetical thinking - the ability to condition upon and extract information from hypothetical events - persists across different strategic environments. Two games of considerable interest in the experimental literature - jury voting games and common value auctions - each contain the feature that a sophisticated player can simplify the problem by conditioning upon a hypothetical event - pivotality and winning the auction, respectively - and extract from it information about the state of the world that might affect their own behaviour. This common element suggests that the capability that leads to sophisticated play in one should lead to the same in the other. This paper tests this connection through a within-subject experiment in which subjects each play both games. Little evidence is found that play in one relates to play in the other in any meaningful way.

Finally, the third, co-authored with Evan Friedman, investigates the nature of errors relative to Nash equilibrium play in a family of two-by-two games. Using data on one- shot games, we study the mapping from the distribution of player j’s actions to the distribution of player i’s beliefs (over player j’s actions) and the mapping from player i’s payoffs (given beliefs) to the distribution over player i’s actions. In our laboratory experiment, subjects play a set of fully mixed 2 × 2 games without feedback and state their beliefs about which actions they expect their opponents to play. We find that (i) belief distributions tend to shift in the same direction as changes in opponents’ actions, (ii) beliefs are systematically biased–“conservative” for one player role and “extreme” for the other, (iii) rates of best response vary systematically across games, and (iv) systematic failures to maximize expected payoffs (given beliefs) are well explained by risk aversion. To better understand the belief formation process, we collect subject-level measures of strategic sophistication based on dominance solvable games. We find that (v) the player role itself has a strong effect on sophistication, (vi) sophistication measured in dominance solvable games strongly predicts behavior in fully mixed games, and (vii) belief elicitation significantly effects actions in a direction consistent with increasing sophistication.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Casella, Alessandra M.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
September 23, 2019