Identification of Biased Beliefs in Games of Incomplete Information Using Experimental Data

38 Pages Posted: 28 Apr 2017

See all articles by Victor Aguirregabiria

Victor Aguirregabiria

University of Toronto - Department of Economics

Erhao Xie

Bank of Canada

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 28, 2017


This paper studies the identification of players' preferences and beliefs in empirical applications of discrete choice games using experimental data. The experiment comprises a set of games with similar features (e.g., two-player coordination games) where each game has different values for the players' monetary payoffs. Each game can be interpreted as an experimental treatment group. The researcher assigns randomly subjects to play these games and observes the outcome of the game as described by the vector of players' actions. The researcher is interested in the nonparametric identification of players' preferences (utility function of money) and players' beliefs about the expected behavior of other players, without imposing restrictions such as unbiased or rational beliefs or a particular functional form for the utility of money. We show that, given a particular design of the matrices of payoffs in the treatments of the experiment, the hypothesis of unbiased/rational beliefs is testable. We propose a nonparametric test of this null hypothesis. We apply our method to two sets of experiments conducted by Goeree and Holt (2001) and Heinemann, Nagel and Ockenfels (2009). Our empirical results suggest that in the matching pennies game, a player is able to correctly predict other player's behavior. In the public good coordination game, our test can reject the null hypothesis of unbiased beliefs when the payoff of the non-cooperative action is relatively low.

Keywords: Empirical Games, Randomized experiments, Laboratory experiments, Testing for biased beliefs, Identification, Multiple equilibria, Strategic uncertainty, Coordination game

JEL Classification: C57, C72

Suggested Citation

Aguirregabiria, Victor and Xie, Erhao, Identification of Biased Beliefs in Games of Incomplete Information Using Experimental Data (April 28, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Victor Aguirregabiria (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Department of Economics ( email )

150 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3G7
4169784358 (Phone)


Erhao Xie

Bank of Canada ( email )

234 Wellington St.
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0G9

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