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Building Routines: Learning, Cooperation, and the Dynamics of Incomplete Relational Contracts


  • Sylvain Chassang


This paper studies how agents with conflicting interests learn to cooperate when the details of cooperation are not common knowledge. It considers a repeated game in which one player has incomplete information about when and how her partner can provide benefits. Initially, monitoring is imperfect and cooperation requires inefficient punishment. As the players' common history grows, the uninformed player can learn to monitor her partner's actions, which allows players to establish more efficient cooperative routines. Because revealing information is costly, it may be optimal not to reveal all the existing information, and efficient equilibria can be path-dependent. (JEL C73, D82, D83, D86)

Suggested Citation

  • Sylvain Chassang, 2010. "Building Routines: Learning, Cooperation, and the Dynamics of Incomplete Relational Contracts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(1), pages 448-465, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:100:y:2010:i:1:p:448-65 Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.100.1.448

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Watson, Joel, 2002. "Starting Small and Commitment," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 38(1), pages 176-199, January.
    2. George Baker & Robert Gibbons & Kevin J. Murphy, 2002. "Relational Contracts and the Theory of the Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(1), pages 39-84.
    3. Susan Athey & Kyle Bagwell & Chris Sanchirico, 2004. "Collusion and Price Rigidity," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 71(2), pages 317-349.
    4. Green, Edward J & Porter, Robert H, 1984. "Noncooperative Collusion under Imperfect Price Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(1), pages 87-100, January.
    5. Ricardo Alonso & Niko Matouschek, 2007. "Relational delegation," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 38(4), pages 1070-1089, December.
    6. Clive Bull, 1987. "The Existence of Self-Enforcing Implicit Contracts," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 102(1), pages 147-159.
    7. Sergiu Hart, 1985. "Nonzero-Sum Two-Person Repeated Games with Incomplete Information," Mathematics of Operations Research, INFORMS, vol. 10(1), pages 117-153, February.
    8. Blume, Andreas & Franco, April Mitchell, 2007. "Decentralized learning from failure," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 133(1), pages 504-523, March.
    9. repec:cor:louvrp:-636 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Sidney G. Winter, 1971. "Satisficing, Selection, and the Innovating Remnant," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 85(2), pages 237-261.
    11. Shalev Jonathan, 1994. "Nonzero-Sum Two-Person Repeated Games with Incomplete Information and Known-Own Payoffs," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 246-259, September.
    12. Rothschild, Michael, 1974. "A two-armed bandit theory of market pricing," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 185-202, October.
    13. Alonso, Ricardo & Matouschek, Niko, 2007. "Relational delegation," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 58668, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    14. Thomas Wiseman, 2005. "A Partial Folk Theorem for Games with Unknown Payoff Distributions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(2), pages 629-645, March.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C73 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Stochastic and Dynamic Games; Evolutionary Games
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • D86 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Economics of Contract Law


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