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The beauty of the contest: A novel approach to experimental beauty contests


  • Alessandro Lanteri

    () (Dep. Public Policy and Public Choice, Fac. Political Science, University of Eastern Piedmont at Alessandria)

  • Marco Novarese

    () (Dep. Legal and Economic Studies, Fac. Law, University of Eastern Piedomont at Alessandria)


We introduce a novel beauty contest experiment to study the gap between individual preferences and beliefs about collective preferences of physical attractiveness. In the first round, participants vote their 3 favorite ladies in the second round they vote the 3 ladies they believe were the most voted in the first round.Unlike other beauty contest experiments, our setup does not investigate depth of reasoning in a cognitively intense task. Instead, it is meant to investigate the existence of shared definitions of physical attractiveness, and whether these may be successfully employed as focal points.Our results show that most participants hold mistaken beliefs about collective preferences and overestimate and underestimate how well liked certain ladies are. Regardless of these mistakes, the winning portraits win by a wide margin in both rounds. Moreover, our participants are better at predicting the portraits which will not be the most voted than those which will.

Suggested Citation

  • Alessandro Lanteri & Marco Novarese, 2008. "The beauty of the contest: A novel approach to experimental beauty contests," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 3(52), pages 1-10.
  • Handle: RePEc:ebl:ecbull:eb-08c90004

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    Cited by:

    1. Alessandro Lanteri & Anna Carabelli, 2011. "Beauty contested: how much of Keynes' remains in behavioural economics' beauty contests?," The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 18(2), pages 269-285.

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    JEL classification:

    • C9 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments
    • C7 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory


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