I write all the time about strategic behavior in athletic competitions.  A racer who is behind can be expected to ease off and conserve on effort since effort is less likely to pay off at the margin.  Hence so will the racer who is ahead, etc.  There is evidence that professional golfers exhibit such strategic behavior, this is the Tiger Woods effect.

We may wonder whether other animals are as strategically sophisticated as we are.  There have been experiments in which monkeys play simple games of strategy against one another, but since we are not even sure humans can figure those out, that doesn’t seem to be the best place to start looking.

I would like to compare how humans and other animals behave in a pure physical contest like a race.  Suppose the animals are conditioned to believe that they will get a reward if and only if they win a race.  Will they run at maximum speed throughout regardless of their position along the way?  Of course “maximum speed” is hard to define, but a simple test is whether the animal’s speed at a given point in the race is independent of whether they are ahead or behind and by how much.

And if the animals learn that one of them is especially fast, do they ease off when racing against her?  Do the animals exhibit a tiger Woods effect?

There are of course horse-racing data.  That’s not ideal because the jockey is human.  Still there’s something we can learn from horse racing.  The jockey does not internalize 100% of the cost of the horse’s effort.  Thus there should be less strategic behavior in horse racing than in races between humans or between jockey-less animals.  Dog racing?  Does that actually exist?

And what if a dog races against a human, what happens then?

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