Desarrollo. ¿ Lógica económica ?

Cuando en una anterior entrada hablábamos de la aparente contradicción entre la lógica (léase cálculo) biológica y la lógica (idem) económica parecía cómo si dentro de las Ciencias Sociales hubiese consenso sobre cómo funciona esta última, sobre sus fundamentos.

Y no es exactamente el caso. El debate es ya añejo, a mi me interesó bastante el siglo pasado, y veo que se sigue publicando sobre la cuestión. En este caso se trata de una crítica, seguramente la enésima, de la disciplina llamada Behavioral Game Theory 

Behavioral game theory can be roughly divided into five interdependent and partially overlapping stages.

The first consists of the Ellsberg, Allais and related paradoxes, which suggest that probabilities enter in a nonlinear manner into the determination of expected utility (Allais 1953; Ellsberg 1961). Allais was awarded the Nobel prize in 1988. Segal (1987), Machina (1987), and others have shown that this behavior can be analytically modeled as expected utility with nonlinear weights.

The second wave of behavioral game theoretic results is exemplified by the  Herbert Gintis research of Vernon Smith and his coworkers. Smith was awarded the Nobel prize in Economics in 2002. Smith began running laboratory experiments of market exchange in 1956 at Purdue and Stanford Universities. His pioneering results strongly supported the model of the rational, self-interested actor and of price-equilibrated market exchange.

The third stage consists of the contributions of Amos Tversky, Daniel Kah-
neman and their coworkers to behavioral decision theory beginning in the early 1970’s, culminating in Kahneman’s being awarded the Nobel prize in Economics in 2002, the same year as Vernon Smith. Kahneman and Tversky’ work is a sustained empirical critique of traditional decision theory. This impressive body of research has led to several substantive models of decision-making outside the standard model developed by Von Neumann and Morgenstern (1944), Savage (1954), di Finetti (1974) and others, including prospect theory (Kahneman/Tversky 1979), hyperbolic discounting (Ainslie/Haslam 1992; Ahlbrecht/ Weber 1995; Laibson, 1997), and regret theory (Sugden, 1993). While integrating these alternatives into the larger economic frameworks of market exchange and economic regulation presents considerable analytical modeling challenges, they not incompatible with maximization subject to constraints.

The fourth stage includes the ultimatum game research of GÄuth et al. (1982), the bargaining experiments of Roth and his coworkers (Roth et al. 1991; Roth 1995), the trust game research of Berg et al. (1995), and the common pool resource and public goods studies of Elinor Ostrom, Toshio Yamagishi and their coworkers (Yamagishi 1986; Hayashi et al. 1999; Watabe et al. 1996). These represent the first systematic investigation of decision-making under conditions of strategic interaction. A characteristic of this fruitful period of research is that experimenters generally consider the non-self-interested behavior of agents as anomalous and based on irrational behavior and faulty reasoning on the part of subjects.

The fifth, and most recent, stage in behavioral game theory research consists of the various experimental scenarios investigated by Ernst Fehr and his coworkers featured here, along with related contributions by his coworkers, as well as Levine (1998), Bolton and Ockenfels (2000), Charness and Rabin (2002) and others. These contributions sharpen and extend the finding of the fourth stage, but present a challenge of quite a diferent order. Rather than treating anomalous behavior as faulty reasoning or behavior, they build analytical models premised upon the rational decision theory, but with agents who systematically exhibit other-regarding preferences; i.e., they care about not only their own payoffs in a strategic interaction, but those of the other players as and the process of play well. 

Tras esta breve introducción extraída de un paper de 2005.

Título: Can We Build Behavioral Game Theory?


The way economists and other social scientists model how people make interdependent decisions is through the theory of games. Psychologists and behavioral economists, however, have established many deviations from the predictions of game theory. In response to these findings, a broad movement has arisen to salvage the core of game theory. Extant models of interdependent decision-making try to improve their explanatory domain by adding some corrective terms or limits.

We will make the argument that this approach is misguided. For this approach to work, the deviations would have to be consistent. Drawing in part on our experimental results, we will argue that deviations from classical models are not consistent for any individual from one task to the next or between individuals for the same task.

In turn, the problem of finding an equilibrium strategy is not easier but rather is exponentially more difficult. It does not seem that game theory can be repaired by adding corrective terms (such as consideration of personal characterizes, social norms, heuristic or bias terms, or cognitive limits to choice and learning).

In what follows, we describe new methods for interdependent decision-making. Our experimental results show that people do not choose consistently, do not hold consistent beliefs, and do not in general align actions and beliefs. We will show that experimental choices are inconsistent in ways that prevent us from drawing general characterizations of an individual’s choices or beliefs or of the general populations’ choices and beliefs. A general behavioral game theory seems a distant and, at present, unfulfilled hope.

Y sin embargo, individualmente, si que nos esforzamos todos, en general, por ser racionales. Quizás lo que falle sea el concepto de racionalidad que utilizan en estos enfoques. O quizás la economía no sea todo en la vida…

Por otra parte uno se pregunta, a veces, leyendo este tipo de literatura, si todos estos investigadores no han ido nunca a un supermercado. ¿ No es esta “institución” la prueba definitiva de que aunque nos gustan los productos, los juegos económicos nos dan dolor de cabeza y preferimos evitarlos ? A esta misma conclusión parecen haber llegado en este otro paper:

Título: Why Is Voluntary Financial Education So Unpopular?


The recent global financial crisis has emphasized the importance of over-indebtedness on  systemic risk. Low levels of financial literacy were arguably one important factor leading many homeowners in the U.S. to take out mortgages exceeding their means. 

During the subprime  mortgage crisis, individuals with lower financial literacy were more likely to be delinquent or to  default on their mortgage (Gerardi, Goette, and Meier, 2010). 

In response to these concerns, many governments, employers, non-profit organizations and even commercial banks have started to provide financial literacy courses with the aim to improve financial education.

Disfrutemos o no con la economía, no cabe duda de que es conveniente tener unos rudimentos mínimos de cálculo económico / financiero para desenvolverse en la vida. Ya antes de la crisis yo me preguntaba por qué no se profundiza más en la educación primaria o secundaria en algo tan básico y tan útil cómo la economía y las finanzas. Y me lo pregunté con mucha más intensidad tras la crisis.

However, participation rates for non-compulsory financial education programs are typically extremely low. Thus despite financial education programs becoming increasingly popular among policy-makers and financial providers, they appear to be deeply unpopular among customers. This raises two interrelated questions which are important for research and policy. The first is whether there  are economic or behavioral constraints which prevent more individuals participating in such  programs? The second question is whether there are any benefits to these marginal individuals from doing so, or whether they are rationally choosing not to participate in such training?

Puedo dar fe que incluso entre colectivos de emprendedores (as) las finanzas no son exactamente el tipo de curso más atractivo. Pero sí interesan a los que ya son empresarios (as). En fin, muy interesante este segundo paper, por cierto visto en el blog Economic Logic. Debemos contestar por lo tanto que sí a la pregunta del título.

Pero no finalizan aquí ni las preguntas ni las respuestas. Queda otra pregunta, que no voy a hacer explícita y  que seguramente este paper nos ayude a contestar:

Título: The Paradox of Redistribution Revisited: And That It May Rest in Peace?


There is a long-standing controversy over the question of whether targeting social transfers towards the bottom part of the income distribution actually enhances or weakens their redistributive impact. Korpi and Palme have influentially claimed that “the more we target benefits at the poor, the less likely we are to reduce poverty and inequality”. The basic empirical underpinning of this claim is a strong inverse relationship at the country level between social transfer targeting and redistributive impact. We show that this no longer holds as a robust empirical generalisation. The relationship between the extent of targeting and redistributive impact over a broad set of empirical specifications, country selections and data sources has in fact become a very weak one. For what it matters, targeting tends to be associated with higher levels of redistribution, especially when overall effort in terms of spending is high. We try to make substantive sense of this breakdown of the originally established relationship by focusing on two questions: first, what has changed in the countries originally included in the study and, second, what is different about the countries now additionally included in the analysis?

P.s. Por problemas con el PDF (pagué a un experto que me sólo me solucionó el problema a  medias…), no tengo acceso al primer paper citado y de momento me debo de conformar con el Abstract. Me ha gustado el aroma a complejidad computacional de una sus frases…


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