Levels of theory-of-mind reasoning in competitive games
Article first published online: 17 OCT 2010
Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Journal of Behavioral Decision Making
Volume 25, Issue 1, pages 95–108, January 2012
How to Cite
Goodie, A. S., Doshi, P. and Young, D. L. (2012), Levels of theory-of-mind reasoning in competitive games. J. Behav. Decis. Making, 25: 95–108. doi: 10.1002/bdm.717
- Issue published online: 6 DEC 2011
- Article first published online: 17 OCT 2010
- decision making;
- recursive reasoning;
- theory of mind
The literature on recursive theory of mind (TOM) reasoning in interactive decision making (reasoning of the type “I think that you think that I think…”) has been pessimistic, suggesting that adults attribute to others levels of reasoning that are low and slow to increase with learning. In four experiments with college-age adults playing sequential games, we examined whether choices and predictions were consistent with believing that others pursue their immediate self-interest, or with believing that others reason through their own decision making, with fixed-sum games that were simpler and more competitive. This manipulation led to higher-level default TOM reasoning; indeed, reasoning against a lower-level opponent was frequently consistent with assuming the opponent's reasoning to be higher-level, leading to sub-optimal choices. We conclude that TOM reasoning is not of a low level in all game settings; rather, individuals may display effective TOM reasoning, reflecting realistic assumptions about their opponents, in competitive and relatively simple games. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.