Self-Referential Thinking and Equilibrium as States of Mind in Games: Fmri Evidence
51 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2005 Last revised: 4 Mar 2008
Sixteen subjects' brain activity were scanned using FMRI as they made choices, expressed beliefs, and expressed iterated 2nd-order beliefs (what they think others believe they will do) in eight games. Cingulate cortex and prefrontal areas (active in theory of mind and social reasoning) are differentially activated in making choices versus expressing beliefs. Forming self-referential 2nd-order beliefs about what others think you will do seems to be a mixture of processes used to make choices and form beliefs. In equilibrium, there is little difference in neural activity across choice and belief tasks; there is a purely neural definition of equilibrium as a "state of mind". "Strategic IQ", actual earnings from choices and accurate beliefs, is negatively correlated with activity in the insula, suggesting poor strategic thinkers are too self-focused, and is positively correlated with ventral striatal activity (suggesting that high IQ subjects are spending more mental energy predicting rewards).
Keywords: Neuroeconomics, fMRI, game theory, strategic, second order beliefs
JEL Classification: C70, C91
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation