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On the Rationality of Escalation

Abstract : Escalation is a typical feature of infinite games. Therefore tools conceived for studying infinite mathematical structures, namely those deriving from coinduction are essential. Here we use coinduction, or backward coinduction (to show its connection with the same concept for finite games) to study carefully and formally the infinite games especially those called dollar auctions, which are considered as the paradigm of escalation. Unlike what is commonly admitted, we show that, provided one assumes that the other agent will always stop, bidding is rational, because it results in a subgame perfect equilibrium. We show that this is not the only rational strategy profile (the only subgame perfect equilibrium). Indeed if an agent stops and will stop at every step, we claim that he is rational as well, if one admits that his opponent will never stop, because this corresponds to a subgame perfect equilibrium. Amazingly, in the infinite dollar auction game, the behavior in which both agents stop at each step is not a Nash equilibrium, hence is not a subgame perfect equilibrium, hence is not rational.
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Preprints, Working Papers, ...
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Contributor : Pierre Lescanne <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, December 8, 2009 - 10:56:45 PM
Last modification on : Friday, April 20, 2018 - 3:44:24 PM
Long-term archiving on: : Thursday, June 17, 2010 - 8:16:48 PM


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  • HAL Id : ensl-00439911, version 1
  • ARXIV : 0912.1746



Pierre Lescanne, Perrinel Matthieu. On the Rationality of Escalation. 2009. ⟨ensl-00439911v1⟩



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