We study the ability of subjects to transfer principles between related coordination games. Subjects play a class of order statistic coordination games closely related to the well-known minimum (or weak-link) and median games (Van Huyck et al. in Am Econ Rev 80:234–248, 1990, Q J Econ 106(3):885–910, 1991). When subjects play a random sequence of games with differing order statistics, play is less sensitive to the order statistic than when a fixed order statistic is used throughout. This is consistent with the prediction of a simple learning model with transfer. If subjects play a series of similar stag hunt games, play converges to the payoff dominant equilibrium when a convention emerges, replicating the main result of Rankin et al. (Games Econ Behav 32:315–337, 2000). When these subjects subsequently play a random sequence of order statistic games, play is shifted towards the payoff dominant equilibrium relative to subjects without previous experience. The data is consistent with subjects absorbing a general principle, play of the payoff dominant equilibrium, and applying it in a new related setting.
KeywordsCoordination Transfer Learning
JEL ClassificationC90 C92 C73
Funding was provided by the NSF (SES-0214310). I would like to thank Phil Brookins, Laura Magee, and Joe Stinn for their fine work as research assistants. This paper would not have been possible without the extraordinary help of Catherine Eckel who recovered a large number of documents from John Van Huyck’s computer and file cabinets. We received helpful comments from seminar participants at FSU and the Workshop in Honor of John Van Huyck, Ed Hopkins, Roberto Weber, Yan Chen, and two anonymous referees.
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