This study investigates mentalizing and strategic thinking in children in elementary school age (from 7 to 12 years old). Drawing from previous literature in behavioral and experiments economics and cognitive science, we conduct experiments in which children of different ages make choices in a series of one-shot, simultaneous move two-person games in normal form. We test the ability of our subjects to reason strategically and compare their behavioral patterns with those of adult players engaged in similar tasks (Di Guida and Devetag 2012). Our results show that even younger children are capable of perspective taking: they seem to grasp the essence of strategic thinking, to recognize similarities across games, and behave consistently. In addition, children are sensitive to the attractive power of focal points (Di Guida and Devetag 2012), which are perceived as natural coordination devices even when they are not part of the game equilibria, in line with previous results. Children are also able to perceive the risk-return tradeoffs implied in strategic decisions, as shown by their preference for “safe” strategies (i.e., strategies yielding an acceptable payoff for any choice of the opponent). Finally, only a minority behaves according to naïve heuristics such as opting for the strategy giving the maximum payoff. Our findings contribute to the interdisciplinary literature on the origin of fairness-based norms within societies and on the cognitive and social determinants of strategic interaction.

Theory of mind in the social sciences: an experiment on strategic thinking in children / Devetag, MARIA GIOVANNA; S., Di Guida; N., Montinari. - In: METHODE. - ISSN 2281-0498. - 2:2(2013), pp. 67-92. [http://dx.doi.org/10.13135/2281-0498%2F43]

Theory of mind in the social sciences: an experiment on strategic thinking in children

DEVETAG, MARIA GIOVANNA;
2013

Abstract

This study investigates mentalizing and strategic thinking in children in elementary school age (from 7 to 12 years old). Drawing from previous literature in behavioral and experiments economics and cognitive science, we conduct experiments in which children of different ages make choices in a series of one-shot, simultaneous move two-person games in normal form. We test the ability of our subjects to reason strategically and compare their behavioral patterns with those of adult players engaged in similar tasks (Di Guida and Devetag 2012). Our results show that even younger children are capable of perspective taking: they seem to grasp the essence of strategic thinking, to recognize similarities across games, and behave consistently. In addition, children are sensitive to the attractive power of focal points (Di Guida and Devetag 2012), which are perceived as natural coordination devices even when they are not part of the game equilibria, in line with previous results. Children are also able to perceive the risk-return tradeoffs implied in strategic decisions, as shown by their preference for “safe” strategies (i.e., strategies yielding an acceptable payoff for any choice of the opponent). Finally, only a minority behaves according to naïve heuristics such as opting for the strategy giving the maximum payoff. Our findings contribute to the interdisciplinary literature on the origin of fairness-based norms within societies and on the cognitive and social determinants of strategic interaction.
strategic thinking, theory of mind, game theory, experiments, evolution, children, cognitive science
Theory of mind in the social sciences: an experiment on strategic thinking in children / Devetag, MARIA GIOVANNA; S., Di Guida; N., Montinari. - In: METHODE. - ISSN 2281-0498. - 2:2(2013), pp. 67-92. [http://dx.doi.org/10.13135/2281-0498%2F43]
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11385/85718
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