Econometrica: Jan 2008, Volume 76, Issue 1

Experientia Docet: Professionals Play Minimax in Laboratory Experiments

https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0012-9682.2008.00818.x
p. 71-115

Ignacio Palacios‐Huerta, Oscar Volij

We study how professional players and college students play zero‐sum two‐person strategic games in a laboratory setting. We first ask professionals to play a 2 × 2 game that is formally identical to a strategic interaction situation that they face in their natural environment. Consistent with their behavior in the field, they play very close to the equilibrium of the game. In particular, (i) they equate their strategies' payoffs to the equilibrium ones and (ii) they generate sequences of choices that are serially independent. In sharp contrast, however, we find that college students play the game far from the equilibrium predictions. We then study the behavior of professional players and college students in the classic O'Neill 4 × 4 zero‐sum game, a game that none of the subjects has encountered previously, and find the same differences in the behavior of these two pools of subjects. The transfer of skills and experience from the familiar field to the unfamiliar laboratory observed for professional players is relevant to evaluate the circumstances under which behavior in a laboratory setting may be a reliable indicator of behavior in a naturally occurring setting. From a cognitive perspective, it is useful for research on recognition processes, intuition, and similarity as a basis for inductive reasoning.

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Supplemental Material

Supplement to "Experientia Docet: Professionals Play Minimax in Laboratory Experiments"

This appendix collects the original instructions used in the experiments, exactly as subjects saw them.  Section I gives the instructions used in the 2x2 penalty kick experiment, and Section II the instructions used in O'Neill's 4x4 experiment.

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Supplement to "Experientia Docet: Professionals Play Minimax in Laboratory Experiments"

This zip file contains programs and data accompanying the paper "Experientia Docet: Professionals Play Minimax in Laboratory Experiments".

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