Strategic cautiousness as an expression of robustness to ambiguity

Gabriel Ziegler, Peio Zuazo-Garin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Economic predictions often hinge on two intuitive premises: agents rule out the possibility of others choosing unreasonable strategies (‘strategic reasoning’), and prefer strategies that hedge against unexpected behavior (‘cautiousness’). These two premises conflict and this undermines the compatibility of usual economic predictions with reasoning-based foundations. This paper proposes a new take on this classical tension by interpreting cautiousness as robustness to ambiguity. We formalize this via a model of incomplete preferences, where (i) each player's strategic uncertainty is represented by a possibly non-singleton set of beliefs and (ii) a rational player chooses a strategy that is a best-reply to every belief in this set. We show that the interplay between these two features precludes the conflict between strategic reasoning and cautiousness and therefore solves the inclusion-exclusion problem raised by Samuelson (1992). Notably, our approach provides a simple foundation for the iterated elimination of weakly dominated strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-215
JournalGames and Economic Behavior
Early online date15 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • game theory
  • decision theory
  • ambiguity
  • Knightian uncertainty
  • incomplete preferences
  • Bayesian rationality
  • cautiousness
  • iterated admissibility


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