The Evolution of ‘Theory of Mind’: Theory and Experiments

Date: 2013-09
By: Erik O. Kimbrough (Dept. of Economics, Simon Fraser University)
Nikolaus Robalino (Dept. of Economics, Simon Fraser University)
Arthur J. Robson (Dept. of Economics, Simon Fraser University)
This paper provides an evolutionary foundation for our capacity to attribute preferences to others. This ability is intrinsic to game theory, and is a key component of “Theory of Mind", perhaps the capstone of social cognition. We argue here that this component of theory of mind allows organisms to efficiently modify their behavior in strategic environments with a persistent element of novelty. Such environments are represented here by multistage games of perfect information with randomly chosen outcomes. “Theory of Mind" then yields a sharp, unambiguous advantage over less sophisticated, behavioral approaches to strategic interaction. In related experiments, we show the subscale for social skills in standard tests for autism is a highly significant determinant of the speed of learning in such games.
Keywords: Evolution, Theory of mind
JEL: D01

Bertrand Competition under Network Externalities

Date: 2013-09
By: Masaki Aoyagi
Two sellers engage in price competition to attract buyers located on a network. The value of the good of either seller to any buyer depends on the number of neighbors on the network who consume the same good. For a generic specification of consumption externalities, we show that an equilibrium price equals the marginal cost if and only if the buyer network is complete or cyclic. When the externalities are approximately linear in the size of consumption, we identify the classes of networks in which one of the sellers monopolizes the market, or the two sellers segment the market.

The Impact of Information Provision on Agglomeration Bonus Performance: An Experimental Study on Local Networks

Date: 2013-08
By: Banerjee, Simanti
de, Vries Frans
Hanley, Nicholas
van, Soest Daan
The Agglomeration Bonus (AB) is a mechanism to induce adjacent landowners to spatially coordinate their land use for the delivery of ecosystem services from farmland. This paper uses laboratory experiments to explore the performance of the AB in achieving the socially optimal land management configuration in a local network environment where the information available to subjects varies. The AB poses a coordination problem between two Nash equilibria: a Pareto dominant and a risk dominant equilibrium. The experiments indicate that if subjects are informed about both their direct and indirect neighbors’ actions, they are more likely to coordinate on the Pareto dominant equilibrium relative to the case where subjects have information about their direct neighbors’ action only. However, the extra information can only delay – and not prevent – the transition to the socially inferior risk dominant Nash equilibrium. In the long run, the AB mechanism may only be partially effective in enhancing delivery of ecosystem services on farming landscapes featuring local networks.
Keywords: Agglomeration bonus, agri-environment schemes, biodiversity conservation, ecosystem services, information spillovers, Payments for Ecosystem Services, spatial coordination

A comparison of endogenous and exogenous timing in a social learning experiment

Date: 2013
By: Meub, Lukas
Proeger, Till
Hüning, Hendrik
This paper experimentally investigates social learning in a two-agent prediction game with both exogenous and endogenous ordering of decisions and a continuous action space. Given that individuals regularly fail to apply rational timing, we refrain from implementing optimal timing of decisions conditional on signal strength. This always renders it optimal to outwait the other player regardless of private signals and induces a gamble on the optimal timing and action. In this setting, we compare exogenous and endogenous ordering in terms of informational efficiency, strategic delay and social welfare. We find that more efficient observational learning leads to more accurate predictions in the endogenous treatments and increases informational efficiency compared to the benchmark exogenous treatment. Overall, subjects act sensitively to waiting costs, with higher costs fostering earlier decisions that reduce informational efficiency. For a simple implementation of waiting costs, subjects more successfully internalize information externalities by adjusting their timing according to signal strength. Simultaneous decisions in endogenous ordering avoid observational learning and compensate the higher degree of rational decisions. Overall, endogenous timing has no net effect on social welfare, as gains in accuracy are fully compensated by waiting costs. Our results hold relevance for social learning environments characterized by a continuous action space and the endogenous timing of decisions. —
Keywords: Endogenous Timing,Information Externalities,Laboratory Experiment,Social Learning,Strategic Delay
JEL: C91