Sunday, December 22, 2002

The Turing Tournament

Two very interesting papers on learning in experimental games are posted on the Turing Tournament webste at Caltech. One is an experimental paper by Arifovic, McKelvey and Pevnitskaya, which focuses on the ability of standard learning models to account for the behavior of human subjects in selected finitely repeated games. There are some striking patterns in the human data that standard learning models consistently fail to replicate, such as alternation between the two pure strategy equilibria in the repeated battle-of-the-sexes, and significant cooperation in the repeated Prisoners' Dilemma. The companion paper is by McKelvey and Palfrey, and calls for the development of "strategic learning" models, which allow for the learning not just of stage-game actions but also of repeated game strategies. The Turing Tournament itself is a fascinating attempt to elicit the development of better learning models and I hope that the tragic and untimely death of Richard McKelvey doesn't derail the project.

Friday, December 20, 2002

Glenn Loury's Du Bois Lectures

For anyone interested in Race in the United States, and in social division more generally, Glenn Loury's recent book The Anatomy of Racial Inequality is essential reading. The book is based on his Du Bois Lectures, delivered in 2000 at Harvard, and goes well beyond his earlier work on statistical discrimination and self-fulfilling negative stereotypes. He does this by stepping across traditional disciplinary boundaries and addressing issues such as the salience of racial markers and the persistence of racal stigma. Unlike discrimination, which "is about how people are treated", stigma "is about who, at the deepest cognitive level, they are understood to be". Loury argues that racial egalitarianism is a legitimate goal of public policy in the historical context of the United States, and that this objective may "properly" be pursued by using methods such as affirmative action, which violate the procedural principle of race-blindness. But this book is about much more than affirmative action, and breaks new ground in the national dialogue on race.

A Blog for Economists?

A blog for economists? Inspired by Rakesh Vohra's must-read list and the NAJ idea, here's a source for some literature that may interest economists and other social scientists. Coverage is very selective and based on my current research interests.