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Strategic decisions: behavioral differences between CEOs and others

Hakan Holm (), Victor Nee () and Sonja Opper ()
Additional contact information
Victor Nee: Cornell University
Sonja Opper: Lund University

Experimental Economics, 2020, vol. 23, issue 1, No 7, 154-180

Abstract: Abstract We study whether CEOs of private firms differ from other people with regard to their strategic decisions and beliefs about others’ strategy choices. Such differences are interesting since CEOs make decisions that are economically more relevant, because they affect not only their own utility or the well-being of household members, but the utility of many stakeholders inside and outside of the organization. They also play a central role in shaping values and norms in society. We expect differences between both groups, because CEOs are more experienced with strategic decision making than comparable people in other professional roles. Yet, due to the difficulties in recruiting this high-profile group for academic research, few studies have explored how CEOs make incentivized decisions in strategic games under strict controls and how their choices in such games differ from those made by others. Our study combines a stratified random sample of 200 CEOs of medium-sized firms with a carefully selected control group of 200 comparable people. All subjects participated in three incentivized games—Prisoner’s Dilemma, Chicken, Battle-of-the-Sexes. Beliefs were elicited for each game. We report substantial and robust differences in both behavior and beliefs between the CEOs and the control group. The most striking results are that CEOs do not best respond to beliefs; they cooperate more, play less hawkish and thereby earn much more than the control group.

Keywords: CEOs; Strategic decision-making; Belief elicitation (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C70 C90 D22 L26 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1007/s10683-019-09604-3

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