Checkmate: Exploring Backward Induction Among Chess Players
Although backward induction is a cornerstone of game theory, most laboratory experiments have found that agents are not able to successfully backward induct. Much of this evidence, however, is generated using the Centipede game, which is ill-suited for testing the theory. In this study, we analyze the play of world class chess players both in the centipede game and in another class of games - Race to 100 games - that are pure tests of backward induction. We find that world class chess players behave like student subjects in the centipede game, virtually never playing the backward induction equilibrium In the race to 100 games, in contrast, we find that many chess players properly backward induct. Consistent with our claim that the Centipede game is not a useful test of backward induction, we find no systematic within-subject relationship between choices in the centipede game and performance in pure backward induction games.
We would like to thank Martin Dufwenberg, Philip Reny, five anonymous referees, and especially, the editor Vince Crawford for insightful comments that improved the study. Trevor Gallen and Elizabeth Sadoff provided truly outstanding research assistance on the ground. Min Sok Lee, Lint Barrage, Tova Levin, Nicholas Simmons and Yana Peysakhovich also provided able research assistance. Affiliations: Steven Levitt and John List: University of Chicago, Department of Economics and National Bureau of Economic Research; Sally Sadoff: University of Chicago, Department of Economics. Mailing address: 1126 E. 59th Street, Chicago, IL 60637. Please direct all correspondence to Sally Sadoff. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Steven D. Levitt & John A. List & Sally E. Sadoff, 2011. "Checkmate: Exploring Backward Induction among Chess Players," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(2), pages 975-90, April. citation courtesy of