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Learning in a black box

Nax, Heinrich H., Burton-Chellew, Maxwell N., West, Stuart A. and Young, H. Peyton (2016) Learning in a black box. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 127. pp. 1-15. ISSN 0167-2681

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Identification Number: 10.1016/j.jebo.2016.04.006


We study behavior in repeated interactions when agents have no information about the structure of the underlying game and they cannot observe other agents’ actions or payoffs. Theory shows that even when players have no such information, there are simple payoff-based learning rules that lead to Nash equilibrium in many types of games. A key feature of these rules is that subjects search differently depending on whether their payoffs increase, stay constant or decrease. This paper analyzes learning behavior in a laboratory setting and finds strong confirmation for these asymmetric search behaviors in the context of voluntary contribution games. By varying the amount of information we show that these behaviors are also present even when subjects have full information about the game.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2016 The Authors © CC BY NC ND 4.0
Divisions: Mathematics
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
Q Science > QA Mathematics
Date Deposited: 21 Dec 2016 15:01
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2021 03:53
Projects: N00014-09-1-0751, 324247, FA9550-09-1-053
Funders: Office of Naval Research, European Research Council, Air Force Office of Scientific Research

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