Experimental Economics

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 25-48

First online:

Timing and Virtual Observability in Ultimatum Bargaining and “Weak Link” Coordination Games

  • Roberto A. WeberAffiliated withDepartment of Social and Decision Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University Email author 
  • , Colin F. CamererAffiliated withDivision of Social Sciences 228-77, California Institute of Technology
  • , Marc KnezAffiliated withLexecon Strategy Group

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Previous studies have shown that simply knowing one player moves first can affect behavior in games, even when the first-mover's moves are known to be unobservable. This observation violates the game-theoretic principle that timing of unobserved moves is irrelevant, but is consistent with virtual observability, a theory of how timing can matter without the ability to observe actions. However, this previous research only shows that timing matters in games where knowledge that one player moved first can help select that player's preferred equilibrium, presenting an alternative explanation to virtual observability. We extend this work by varying timing of unobservable moves in ultimatum bargaining games and “weak link” coordination games. In the latter, the equilibrium selection explanation does not predict any change in behavior due to timing differences. We find that timing without observability affects behavior in both games, but not substantially.

timing coordination games experiments