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Neural basis of decision making in Stag Hunt games: effects of change in payoff and risk dominance level

Aydoğan, Buse
The main objective of this study is to analyze the effect of changes in payoff and risk dominance characteristics of coordination games on subjects’ behavior in equilibrium selection process as well as on subjects’ prefrontal cortex. The main contribution of the study to the literature is attempting to fill the gaps for understanding the decision making process by investigating the neural mechanisms of the participants during the game. In the scope of this study, an experiment was conducted with 48 subjects under fixed matching protocol, applying the Stag Hunt game designs introduced by Schmidt et al. (2003). During the experiment, participants were asked to make choices under a series of coordination games. Furthermore, participants’ brain activities were analyzed with respect to their actions in equilibrium selection process via Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) technology. The behavioral findings of our study demonstrate that subjects react to changes in the level of both payoff and risk dominance. Moreover, fNIRS data analyses support the behavioral findings of our study which suggest that both payoff and risk dominance are significant in equilibrium selection process. Significant greater brain activations have been observed in Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex and Dorsomedial Prefrontal Cortex with a lower level of payoff dominance level and a higher level of risk dominance level, as long as compared coordination games have a sufficiently high level of payoff dominance or a sufficiently low level of risk dominance or both.