Sequential equilibrium

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Sequential Equilibrium
A solution concept in game theory
Subset of Subgame perfect equilibrium, perfect Bayesian equilibrium
Superset of extensive-form trembling hand perfect equilibrium, Quasi-perfect equilibrium
Proposed by David M. Kreps and Robert Wilson
Used for Extensive form games

Sequential equilibrium is a refinement of Nash Equilibrium for extensive form games due to David M. Kreps and Robert Wilson. A sequential equilibrium specifies not only a strategy for each of the players but also a belief for each of the players. A belief gives, for each information set of the game belonging to the player, a probability distribution on the nodes in the information set. A profile of strategies and beliefs is called an assessment for the game. Informally speaking, an assessment is a perfect Bayesian equilibrium if its strategies are sensible given its beliefs and its beliefs are confirmed on the outcome path given by its strategies. The definition of sequential equilibrium further requires that there be arbitrarily small perturbations of beliefs and associated strategies with the same property.

David Marc "Dave" Kreps is a game theorist and economist and professor at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. He is known for his analysis of dynamic choice models and non-cooperative game theory, particularly the idea of sequential equilibrium, which he developed with Stanford Business School colleague Robert B. Wilson.

Robert Butler "Bob" Wilson, Jr. is an American economist and the Adams Distinguished Professor of Management, Emeritus at Stanford University. He is known for his contributions to management science and business economics. His doctoral thesis introduced sequential quadratic programming, which became a leading iterative method for nonlinear programming. With other mathematical economists at the Stanford Business School, he helped to reformulate the economics of industrial organization and organization theory using non-cooperative game theory. His research on nonlinear pricing has influenced policies for large firms, particularly in the energy industry, especially electricity.

In game theory, an information set is a set that, for a particular player, establishes all the possible moves that could have taken place in the game so far, given what that player has observed. If the game has perfect information, every information set contains only one member, namely the point actually reached at that stage of the game. Otherwise, it is the case that some players cannot be sure exactly what has taken place so far in the game and what their position is.


Consistent assessments

The formal definition of a strategy being sensible given a belief is straigh­tforward; the strategy should simply maximize expected payoff in every information set. It is also straightforward to define what a sensible belief should be for those information sets that are reached with positive probability given the strategies; the beliefs should be the conditional probability distribution on the nodes of the information set, given that it is reached. This entails the application of Bayes' rule.

It is far from straigh­tforward to define what a sensible belief should be for those information sets that are reached with probability zero, given the strategies. Indeed, this is the main conceptual contribution of Kreps and Wilson. Their consistency requirement is the following: The assessment should be a limit point of a sequence of totally mixed strategy profiles and associated sensible beliefs, in the above straigh­tforward sense.

In mathematics, a limit point of a set S in a topological space X is a point x that can be "approximated" by points of S in the sense that every neighbourhood of x with respect to the topology on X also contains a point of S other than x itself. A limit point of a set S does not itself have to be an element of S.

Relationship to other equilibrium refinements

Sequential equilibrium is a further refinement of subgame perfect equilibrium and even perfect Bayesian equilibrium. It is itself refined by extensive-form trembling hand perfect equilibrium and proper equilibrium. Strategies of sequential equilibria (or even extensive-form trembling hand perfect equilibria) are not necessarily admissible. A refinement of sequential equilibrium that guarantees admissibility is quasi-perfect equilibrium.

In game theory, a subgame perfect equilibrium is a refinement of a Nash equilibrium used in dynamic games. A strategy profile is a subgame perfect equilibrium if it represents a Nash equilibrium of every subgame of the original game. Informally, this means that if the players played any smaller game that consisted of only one part of the larger game, their behavior would represent a Nash equilibrium of that smaller game. Every finite extensive game has a subgame perfect equilibrium.

In game theory, a Bayesian game is a game in which the players have incomplete information on the other players, but, they have beliefs with known probability distribution.

In game theory, trembling hand perfect equilibrium is a refinement of Nash equilibrium due to Reinhard Selten. A trembling hand perfect equilibrium is an equilibrium that takes the possibility of off-the-equilibrium play into account by assuming that the players, through a "slip of the hand" or tremble, may choose unintended strategies, albeit with negligible probability.

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David M. Kreps and Robert Wilson. "Sequential Equilibria", Econometrica 50:863-894, 1982.