1200 E California Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91125
RESEARCH: BEHAVIORAL GAME THEORY
My specialty in the last few years has been "behavioral game theory", a subfield (or "franchise") of behavioral economics which uses experimental evidence to establish how psychological limits on the ability to make calculations and plan ahead, the way in which people react to fairness, and learning from experience, influence behavior in situations described by "game theory". Game theory is a mathematical analysis of any social situation in which one player—typically a person, but possibly a firm or nation—tries to figure out what other players will do, and choose the best strategy given those guesses about others. Most game theory describes the fictional behavior of an ideal, hypercalculating, emotionless player (like Dr. Spock from Star Trek) and, as a result, is not always a good guide to how normal people who don't plan too far ahead will actually behave. My 2003 book Behavioral Game Theory describes hundreds of different experimental studies which show where game theory predicts well and predicts poorly, and suggests some new kinds of theory. Behavioral game theory gives precise predictions about how people who think only a couple of steps ahead, have both guilt and envy toward others, and learn from experience, are likely to behave (Bibliography for my book.)
In work with Teck Ho, Kuan Chong and many talented collaborators, we have created some new theories for explaining how people actually think, learn and "teach" other players in games. Most of our work uses simple statistical theories which are rooted in some psychological principle, and sees how well these theories fit and predict many different types of experimental games. (We also see whether the theories have "economic value", in the sense that a player equipped with these theories, and doing their best assuming other players' behavior was predicted by the theories, could earn more money than the average player does. The answer is that they would.) Here are some of our papers:
"Experience-weighted attraction learning in sender-receiver signaling games," with Chris Anderson, Economic Theory, 2000, 16, 689-718. (Reprinted in Advances in Experimental Markets, T. Cason and C. Noussair (Eds.), Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 2001, 209-238.)
"Experience-weighted attraction (EWA) learning in normal-form games," with Teck-Hua Ho, Econometrica, 67, July 1999, 827-874.