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Estimating signaling games in international relations: problems and solutions

Crisman-Cox, Casey and Gibilisco, Michael (2021) Estimating signaling games in international relations: problems and solutions. Political Science Research and Methods, 9 (3). pp. 565-582. ISSN 2049-8470. doi:10.1017/psrm.2019.58.

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Signaling games are central to political science but often have multiple equilibria, leading to no definitive prediction. We demonstrate that these indeterminacies create substantial problems when fitting theory to data: they lead to ill-defined and discontinuous likelihoods even if the game generating the data has a unique equilibrium. In our experiments, currently used techniques frequently fail to uncover the parameters of the canonical crisis-signaling game, regardless of sample size and number of equilibria in the data generating process. We propose three estimators that remedy these problems, outperforming current best practices. We fit the signaling model to data on economic sanctions. Our solutions find a novel U-shaped relationship between audience costs and the propensity for leaders to threaten sanctions, which current best practices fail to uncover.

Item Type:Article
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Crisman-Cox, Casey0000-0002-5229-3955
Additional Information:© The European Political Science Association 2019. Received 11 January 2019; revised 11 June 2019; accepted 30 July 2019; first published online 9 December 2019. Thanks to Rob Carroll, Kentaro Fukumoto, Jinhee Jo, Gleason Judd, Tasos Kalandrakis, James Lo, Gabriel Lopez-Moctezuma, Sergio Montero, Jacob Montgomery, Will Moore, Matt Shum, Wei Zhong, the editor Jude Hayes, and two anonymous referees for comments and suggestions. This paper benefited from audiences at Washington University in Saint Louis, the Southern California Methods Workshop, the International Methods Colloquium and the annual meetings of APSA, MPSA, and the Society for Political Methodology. Naturally, we are responsible for all errors.
Subject Keywords:Maximum likelihood estimation (MLE); Structural estimation; Crisis-signaling; Economic sanctions
Issue or Number:3
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20180124-083209026
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Official Citation:Crisman-Cox, C., & Gibilisco, M. (2021). Estimating signaling games in international relations: Problems and solutions. Political Science Research and Methods, 9(3), 565-582. doi:10.1017/psrm.2019.58
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:84491
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:31 Jan 2018 19:08
Last Modified:02 Aug 2021 20:28

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