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The value of victory: social origins of the winner's curse in common value auctions

Listed author(s):
  • Wouter van den Bos
  • Jian Li
  • Tatiana Lau
  • Eric Maskin
  • Jonathan D. Cohen
  • P. Read Montague
  • Samuel M. McClure

Auctions, normally considered as devices facilitating trade, also provide a way to probe mechanisms governing one's valuation of some good or action. One of the most intriguing phenomena in auction behavior is the winner's curse --- the strong tendency of participants to bid more than rational agent theory prescribes, often at a significant loss. The prevailing explanation suggests that humans have limited cognitive abilities that make estimating the correct bid difficult, if not impossible. Using a series of auction structures, we found that bidding approaches rational agent predictions when participants compete against a computer. However, the winner's curse appears when participants compete against other humans, even when cognitive demands for the correct bidding strategy are removed. These results suggest the humans assign significant future value to victories over human but not over computer opponents even though such victories may incur immediate losses, and that this valuation anomaly is the origin of apparently irrational behavior.

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Article provided by Society for Judgment and Decision Making in its journal Judgment and Decision Making.

Volume (Year): 3 (2008)
Issue (Month): 7 (October)
Pages: 483-492

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Handle: RePEc:jdm:journl:v:3:y:2008:i:7:p:483-492
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  1. Max H. Bazerman & William F. Samuelson, 1983. "I Won the Auction But Don't Want the Prize," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 27(4), pages 618-634, December.
  2. Kagel, John H, et al, 1989. "First-Price Common Value Auctions: Bidder Behavior and the "Winner's Curse."," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 27(2), pages 241-258, April.
  3. Ashenfelter, O. & Genesove, D., 1992. "Testing for Price Anomalies in Real Estate Auctions," Working papers 92-2, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  4. Dyer, Douglas & Kagel, John H & Levin, Dan, 1989. "A Comparison of Naive and Experienced Bidders in Common Value Offer Auctions: A Laboratory Analysis," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 99(394), pages 108-115, March.
  5. Drew Fudenberg, 2006. "Advancing Beyond Advances in Behavioral Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 44(3), pages 694-711, September.
  6. Milgrom, Paul R & Weber, Robert J, 1982. "A Theory of Auctions and Competitive Bidding," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(5), pages 1089-1122, September.
  7. Armantier, Olivier, 2004. "Does observation influence learning?," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 221-239, February.
  8. Jacob K. Goeree & Theo Offerman, 2000. "Efficiency in Auctions with Private and Common Values: An Experimental Study," Virginia Economics Online Papers 347, University of Virginia, Department of Economics.
  9. John H. Kagel & Jean-Francois Richard, 2001. "Super-Experienced Bidders In First-Price Common-Value Auctions: Rules Of Thumb, Nash Equilibrium Bidding, And The Winner'S Curse," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 83(3), pages 408-419, August.
  10. Holt, Charles A & Sherman, Roger, 1994. "The Loser's Curse," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 642-652, June.
  11. Parlour, Christine A. & Prasnikar, Vesna & Rajan, Uday, 2007. "Compensating for the winner's curse: Experimental evidence," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 339-356, August.
  12. 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.
  13. Lind, Barry & Plott, Charles., 1989. "The Winner's Curse: Experiments with Buyers and with Sellers," Working Papers 699, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  14. Walker, James M. & Smith, Vernon L. & Cox, James C., 1987. "Bidding behavior in first price sealed bid auctions : Use of computerized Nash competitors," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 239-244.
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