Counterfactuals, Belief Changes, and Equilibrium Refinements

Philosophical Topics 21 (1):21-52 (1993)
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Abstract

It is usually assumed in game theory that agents who interact strategically with each other are rational, know the strategies open to other agents as well as their payoffs and, moreover, have common knowledge of all the above. In some games, that much information is sufficient for the players to identify a "solution" and play it. The most commonly adopted solution concept is that of Nash equilibrium. A Nash equilibrium is defined a combination of strategies, one for each player, such that no player can profit from a deviation from his strategy if the opponents stick to their strategies. Nash equilibrium is taken to have predictive power, in the sense that in order to predict how rational agents will in fact behave, it is enough to identify the equilibrium patterns of actions. Barring the case in which players have dominant strategies, to play her part in a Nash equilibrium a player must believe that the other players play their part, too. But an intelligent player must immediately realize that she has no ground for this belief. Take the case of a one-shot, simultaneous game. Here all undominated strategies are possible choices, and the beliefs supporting them are possible beliefs, even if this game has a..

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Cristina Bicchieri
University of Pennsylvania

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