The Power of Reasoning: Experimental Evidence

41 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2008

Date Written: September 16, 2008


This paper presents an experimental investigation of how a systematic variation in the cognitive demands on subjects affects the optimal play. The innovation of this paper is the choice of a game, which we call the Game of Position. This is a two-player zero-sum game characterized by a dominant-strategy solution that involves iterative steps of reasoning. The equilibrium play is independent of mutual beliefs of players; hence inability of a subject to play the dominant-strategy unambiguously implies the failure of human reasoning prowess. We alter the two parameters of the game to vary the cognitive constraints, as represented by these steps of reasoning, on players. Our main substantive conclusion is that the frequency of the dominant-strategy play sharply increases as we limit the cognitive demands on players.

Keywords: Non-cooperative game theory, cognition, laboratory experiment

JEL Classification: C72, D83, C91

Suggested Citation

Dugar, Subhasish and Bhattacharya, Haimanti, The Power of Reasoning: Experimental Evidence (September 16, 2008). Available at SSRN: or

Subhasish Dugar (Contact Author)

University of Calgary ( email )

2500 University Drive, NW
Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4

Haimanti Bhattacharya

University of Utah ( email )

Department of Economics
1645 E Campus Center Drive, #308
Salt Lake City, UT 84112
United States


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