Tug-of-war is a multi-battle contest often used to describe extended interactions in economics, management, political science, and other disciplines. While there has been some theoretical work, there is scant empirical evidence regarding behavior in a tug-of-war game. To the best of our knowledge, this paper provides the first experimental study of the tug-of-war. The results show notable deviations of behavior from theory. In the first battle of the tug-of-war, subjects exert fewer resources, while in the follow-up battles, they exert more resources than predicted. Also, contrary to the theoretical prediction, resource expenditures tend to increase in the duration of the tug-of-war. Finally, extending the margin necessary to win the tug-of-war causes more discouragement than either a reduction in the prize or greater impatience despite all three having the same expected effect. Potential behavioral explanations for these findings are also discussed.
Deck, C., & Sheremeta, R. (2015). Tug-of-war in the laboratory. ESI Working Paper 15-14. Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.chapman.edu/esi_working_papers/163