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Comparative statics of a signaling game: An experimental study

Research paper by Jan Potters, Frans van Winden

Indexed on: 01 Sep '96Published on: 01 Sep '96Published in: International Journal of Game Theory



Abstract

In this paper a simple and basic signaling game is studied in an experimental environment. First, we check whether we can replicate some of the findings in the literature concerning equilibrium selection and the use and impact of costly signals. Second, and foremost, the comparative statics implications of the game are studied. The experimental results are related to the predictions of two competing behavioral models: a game model, in which subjects are assumed to behave in line with (refined) sequential equilibrium theory, and a decision model, in which subjects are assumed to behave as non-strategic decision makers.The experimental outcomes replicate the finding in the literature that costly messages are sent more frequently by ‘higher’ sender types (whose information is such that persuasion is also profitable to the responder), and that such messages have an impact on the behavior of the responder. These results are consistent with (versions of) both the game model and the decision model. The comparative statics results, however, clearly point in the direction of the decision model. Play is most strongly affected by ‘own’ payoff parameters, as predicted by the decision model, and less so by opponent's payoff parameters, as predicted by the mixed strategies of the refined sequential equilibrium. Particularly, a decision model in which players are assumed to adapt beliefs about opponents' choice probabilities in response to experience in previous play, appears to succeed best in organizing the data.