Strategic Complexity and the Value of Thinking

70 Pages Posted: 19 May 2022

See all articles by David Gill

David Gill

Purdue University, Department of Economics

Victoria L. Prowse

Purdue University - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics; German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin)

Abstract

Response times are a simple low-cost indicator of the process of reasoning in strategic games. In this paper, we leverage the dynamic nature of response-time data from repeated strategic interactions to measure the strategic complexity of a situation by how long people think on average when they face that situation (where we categorize situations according to the characteristics of play in the previous round). We find that strategic complexity varies significantly across situations, and we find considerable heterogeneity in how responsive subjects' thinking times are to complexity. We also study how variation in response times at the individual level across rounds affects strategic behavior and success: when a subject thinks for longer than she would normally do in a particular situation, she wins less frequently and earns less. The behavioral mechanism that drives the reduction in performance is a tendency to move away from Nash equilibrium behavior. Finally, cognitive ability and personality have no effect on average response times.

Keywords: response time, decision time, deliberation time, thinking time, complexity, level-k, game theory, strategic game, repeated games, beauty contest, cognitive ability, personality

JEL Classification: C72, C91

Suggested Citation

Gill, David and Prowse, Victoria L., Strategic Complexity and the Value of Thinking. IZA Discussion Paper No. 15275, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4114859 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4114859

David Gill (Contact Author)

Purdue University, Department of Economics ( email )

610 Purdue Mall
West Lafayette, IN 47907
United States

Victoria L. Prowse

Purdue University - Department of Economics ( email )

West Lafayette, IN 47907-1310
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin) ( email )

Mohrenstra├če 58
Berlin, 10117
Germany

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