Document Type


Publication Date



game theory, equilibrium behavior, human behavior


Game theoretic predictions about equilibrium behavior depend upon assumptions of inflexibility of belief, of accord between belief and choice, and of choice across situations that share a game-theoretic structure. However, researchers rarely possess any knowledge of the actual beliefs of subjects, and rarely compare how a subject behaves in settings that share game-theoretic structure but that differ in other respects. Our within-subject experiments utilize a belief elicitation mechanism, roughly similar to a prediction market, in a laboratory setting to identify subjects’ beliefs about other subjects’ choices and beliefs. These experiments additionally allow us to compare choices in different settings that have similar game-theoretic structure. We find first, as have others,that subjects’ choices in the Trust and related games are significantly different from the strategies that derive from subgame perfect Nash equilibrium principles. We show that, for individual subjects, there is considerable flexibility of choice and belief across similar tasks and that the relationship between belief and choice is similarly flexible. To improve our ability to predict human behavior, we must take account of the flexible nature of human belief and choice.


This is an article pre-print.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Human behavior, Game theory