.ISSN (e) 1759-7331
(print) 1759-7323
Quantitative Economics
An open-access journal in quantitative economics
Journal of the
Econometric Society
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Quantitative Economics, Volume 12, Issue 1 (January 2021)

A notion of prominence for games with natural‐language labels

Alessandro Sontuoso, Sudeep Bhatia


We study games with natural‐language labels (i.e., strategic problems where options are denoted by words), for which we propose and test a measurable characterization of prominence. We assume that—ceteris paribus—players find particularly prominent those strategies that are denoted by words more frequently used in their everyday language. To operationalize this assumption, we suggest that the prominence of a strategy‐label is correlated with its frequency of occurrence in large text corpora, such as the Google Books corpus (“n‐gram” frequency). In testing for the strategic use of word frequency, we consider experimental games with different incentive structures (such as incentives to and not to coordinate), as well as subjects from different cultural/linguistic backgrounds. Our data show that frequently‐mentioned labels are more (less) likely to be selected when there are incentives to match (mismatch) others. Furthermore, varying one's knowledge of the others' country of residence significantly affects one's reliance on word frequency. Overall, the data show that individuals play strategies that fulfill our characterization of prominence in a (boundedly) rational manner.

Focal points salience coordination hide‐and‐seek culture language C72 C91

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