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Signaling and Countersignaling: A Theory of Understatement

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  • Nick Feltovich

    (University of Houston)

  • Rick Harbaugh

    (Claremont McKenna College)

  • Ted To

    (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Abstract

In signaling environments ranging from consumption to education, high quality senders often shun the standard signals that should separate them from lower quality senders. We find that allowing for additional, noisy information on sender quality permits equilibria where medium types signal to separate themselves from low types, but high types then choose to not signal or countersignal. High types not only save costs by relying on the additional information to stochastically separate them from low types, but countersignaling itself is a signal of confidence which separates high types from medium types. Experimental results confirm that subjects can learn to countersignal.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Claremont Colleges in its series Claremont Colleges Working Papers with number 1999-21.

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Handle: RePEc:clm:clmeco:1999-21

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Keywords: signaling; countersignaling; understatement;

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  1. Mark N. Hertzendorf, 1993. "I'm Not a High-Quality Firm -- But I Play One on TV," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 24(2), pages 236-247, Summer.
  2. Alvin E. Roth & V. Prasnikar & M. Okuno-Fujiwara & S. Zamir, 1998. "Bargaining and market behavior in Jerusalem, Liubljana, Pittsburgh and Tokyo: an experimental study," Levine's Working Paper Archive 344, David K. Levine.
  3. Banks, Jeffrey S & Sobel, Joel, 1987. "Equilibrium Selection in Signaling Games," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(3), pages 647-61, May.
  4. John H. Kagel & Colin M. Campbell & Dan Levin, 1999. "The Winner's Curse and Public Information in Common Value Auctions: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 325-334, March.
  5. Harbaugh, William T., 1998. "What do donations buy?: A model of philanthropy based on prestige and warm glow," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(2), pages 269-284, February.
  6. Ball, Sheryl B. & Bazerman, Max H. & Carroll, John S., 1991. "An evaluation of learning in the bilateral winner's curse," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 1-22, February.
  7. Teoh, Siew Hong & Hwang, Chuan Yang, 1991. "Nondisclosure and Adverse Disclosure as Signals of Firm Value," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 4(2), pages 283-313.
  8. Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 1993. "Design Innovation and Fashion Cycles," Discussion Papers 1049, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  9. Spence, A Michael, 1973. "Time and Communication in Economic and Social Interaction," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 87(4), pages 651-60, November.
  10. Cho, In-Koo & Kreps, David M, 1987. "Signaling Games and Stable Equilibria," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 102(2), pages 179-221, May.
  11. Huck, Steffen & Normann, Hans-Theo & Oechssler, Jorg, 1999. "Learning in Cournot Oligopoly--An Experiment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(454), pages C80-95, March.
  12. Nelson, Philip, 1974. "Advertising as Information," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(4), pages 729-54, July/Aug..
  13. Akerlof, George A, 1970. "The Market for 'Lemons': Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 84(3), pages 488-500, August.
  14. Cho, In-Koo & Sobel, Joel, 1990. "Strategic stability and uniqueness in signaling games," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 381-413, April.
  15. John G. Riley, 1974. "Competitive Signalling," UCLA Economics Working Papers 050, UCLA Department of Economics.
  16. Garvin, Susan & Kagel, John H., 1994. "Learning in common value auctions: Some initial observations," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 25(3), pages 351-372, December.
  17. Prendergast, Canice & Stole, Lars, 1996. "Impetuous Youngsters and Jaded Old-Timers: Acquiring a Reputation for Learning," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(6), pages 1105-34, December.
  18. Quinzii, Martine & Rochet, Jean-Charles, 1985. "Multidimensional signalling," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 261-284, June.
  19. Engers, Maxim, 1987. "Signalling with Many Signals," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(3), pages 663-74, May.
  20. Hans K. Hvide, 2003. "Education and the Allocation of Talent," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(4), pages 945-976, October.
  21. Spence, A Michael, 1973. "Job Market Signaling," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 87(3), pages 355-74, August.
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