Using Group Commitment to Promote Smoking Cessation in Thailand
Principal Investigators: Ming Hsu (Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley)
Real-life decisions, in both individual and social domains, frequently require rapid appraisal and adjustment in the face of uncertainty. The latter can be particularly difficult, owing to the need to understand the incentives and mental models of other intelligent agents. Game theory, by modeling strategic decision-making of rational individuals, offers a way to quantify and measure such complex behavior in social settings. In particular, a game theoretic approach can measure the extent to which individuals perform sub-optimally relative to a normative benchmark.
This has important applications for quantifying variation in social and strategic behavior among the different population strata. For example, there is much evidence that elderly are disproportionate targets of fraud in the US and other countries (Templeton and Kirkman, 2007). Hsu hypothesizes that the susceptibility to fraud is due in part to decline in fluid intelligence that is well-documented among elderly, but also due to declines in behavioral flexibility that is critical for social cognition and strategic learning.
Surprisingly, little is known regarding the effects of age on strategic decision-making and learning in strategic contexts. The few existing studies have found conflicting evidence of impairment. These studies, however, used relatively simple games, which limits demand placed on cognitive resources. Hsu proposes to test an aging population in a game (the patent race game) that is simple in structure but rich in the patterns of behavior that it can generate. He plans to collect both behavioral and neuroimaging and behavioral data in two age groups: middle aged (40-55) and older (70-85). This comparison sample will supplement an existing sample of young healthy adults (ages 18-22), and allow him to search for age-related differences.