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Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis


Glasgow economist to present research on the development of strategic sophistication in children

06 Mar 2018

Research into how cognitive skills and age work together to determine the strategic sophistication of children in a variety of strategic interactions will be presented on March 21 at a CHEPA seminar by Dr. Eduardo Fé of Strathclyde University in Glasgow.

 The development of strategic sophistication matters because people constantly engage in strategic interactions with others in their environment.  Examples of strategic decisions include: how much effort to allocate to competitions for valuable prizes or outcomes; when to reciprocate the kind behaviour of others and when to punish bad behaviour; whom to form friendships with; when to maintain a reputation for honesty over lying or breaking promises; how to use communication to coordinate on mutually beneficial outcomes; how to induce cooperation in repeated interactions that involve short-term incentives to behave badly; and how to bargain effectively. Strategic decisions also extend to the realm of emotions such as pride, disappointment, guilt or anger.

In his seminar, entitled Cognitive Skills and the Development of Strategic Sophistication, Prof Fé will discuss how observable cognitive skills influence the development of strategic sophistication.

 He studied experimentally how psychometric measures of theory-of-mind (defined as the ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.—to oneself, and to others, and to understand that others have beliefs, desires, intentions, and perspectives that are different from one's own) and cognitive ability (or ‘fluid intelligence’) work together with age to determine the strategic ability and level-k behaviour of children in a variety of incentivized strategic interactions. (Level-k thinking refers to a class of logic problems in which all actors are perfectly rational and possess infinite intelligence).

Prof Fé found that better theory-of-mind and cognitive ability predict strategic sophistication in competitive games. Furthermore, age and cognitive ability act in tandem as complements, while age and theory-of-mind operate independently.

He says older children respond to information about the cognitive ability of their opponent, which provides support for the emergence of a sophisticated strategic theory-of-mind.

Finally, theory-of-mind and age strongly predict whether children respond to intentions in a gift-exchange game, while cognitive ability has no influence, suggesting that different psychometric measures of cognitive skill correspond to different cognitive processes in strategic situations that involve the understanding of intentions. To read his research paper, click here.

Prof Fé is a Lecturer in Economics at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. He is an applied econometrician who uses experiments and secondary data to understand the development and economic implications of human capital. His research contributes to the understanding of the relationship between human capital and economic decision taking during childhood and the old age. He is currently researching the development of strategic and reciprocal behaviour in children, the partial identification of the effect of drought on children’s long-term cognitive development and the estimation of identification regions for the causal effect of retirement on cognitive development under invalid instruments.

Before joining Strathclyde, Prof Fé was a Senior Researcher at the University of Oxford (Blavatnik School of Government and Health Economics Research Centre). Prior to that, he was a tenured RCUK Fellow and Lecturer at the University of Manchester where he taught Econometric Theory and Statistics. He holds a Ph.D. in Econometrics from the University of Manchester, for which he thanks the generous support of Fundación Ramón Areces.

The seminar will take place on Wednesday March 21, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in CRL-B119. All are welcome to attend.

If you are unable to attend in person you are welcome to participate remotely online, using WebEx. To join the seminar online, click here or copy and paste the link below into your browser. The password is CHEPAseminar


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