Applying 'Theory of Mind': Theory and Experiments

59 Pages Posted: 8 Jun 2016 Last revised: 19 Oct 2017

See all articles by Erik O. Kimbrough

Erik O. Kimbrough

Chapman University - The George L. Argyros School of Business & Economics

Nikolaus Robalino

Simon Fraser University (SFU) - Department of Economics

Arthur J. Robson

Simon Fraser University (SFU) - Department of Economics

Date Written: October 7, 2017

Abstract

This paper investigates our capacity to attribute preferences to others. This ability is intrinsic to game theory, and is a central component of “Theory of Mind”, perhaps the capstone of social cognition. In particular, this component of theory of mind allows individuals to learn more rapidly in strategic environments with an element of novelty. We show here that the capacity to attribute preferences yields a clear advantage over less sophisticated approaches to strategic interaction (such as reinforcement learning) because it allows agents to extrapolate to novel circumstances information about counterparts’ preferences that was learned previously. We report experiments investigating this capacity in simple extensive form games. We find significant learning of others’ preferences, providing evidence for the presence and effectiveness of this aspect of theory of mind. Moreover, scores on survey measures of autism-spectrum tendencies are significant determinants of individual learning, so our notion of theory of mind is related to the notion as it is understood in psychology.

Keywords: Theory of Mind, Game Theory, Learning, Experiments

JEL Classification: C9, C7, D8

Suggested Citation

Kimbrough, Erik O. and Robalino, Nikolaus and Robson, Arthur J., Applying 'Theory of Mind': Theory and Experiments (October 7, 2017). Games and Economic Behavior, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2791212 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2791212

Erik O. Kimbrough (Contact Author)

Chapman University - The George L. Argyros School of Business & Economics ( email )

One University Dr
Orange, CA 92866
United States

Nikolaus Robalino

Simon Fraser University (SFU) - Department of Economics ( email )

8888 University Drive
Burnaby, British Columbia V5A 1S6
Canada

Arthur J. Robson

Simon Fraser University (SFU) - Department of Economics ( email )

8888 University Drive
Burnaby, British Columbia V5A 1S6
Canada

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