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Conflicting evidence and decisions by agency professionals: an experimental test in the context of merger regulation


  • Bruce Lyons


  • Gordon Menzies


  • Daniel Zizzo



Many important regulatory decisions are taken by professionals employing limited and conflicting evidence. We conduct an experiment in a merger regulation setting, identifying the role of different standards of proof, volumes of evidence, cost of error and professional or lay decision making. The experiment was conducted on current practitioners from 11 different jurisdictions, in addition to student subjects. Legal standards of proof significantly affect decisions. There are specific differences because of professional judgment, including in how error costs and volume of evidence are taken into account. We narrow the range of explanations for why professional decision making matters. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2012

Suggested Citation

  • Bruce Lyons & Gordon Menzies & Daniel Zizzo, 2012. "Conflicting evidence and decisions by agency professionals: an experimental test in the context of merger regulation," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 73(3), pages 465-499, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:theord:v:73:y:2012:i:3:p:465-499 DOI: 10.1007/s11238-011-9258-3

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Klaus Abbink & Benedikt Herrmann, 2011. "The Moral Costs Of Nastiness," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 49(2), pages 631-633, April.
    2. Menzies Gordon Douglas & Zizzo Daniel John, 2009. "Inferential Expectations," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 9(1), pages 1-27, December.
    3. Friedman,Daniel & Sunder,Shyam, 1994. "Experimental Methods," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521456821, March.
    4. Henckel, Timo & Menzies, Gordon D. & Prokhovnik, Nick & Zizzo, Daniel J., 2011. "Barro-Gordon revisited: Reputational equilibria with inferential expectations," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 112(2), pages 144-147, August.
    5. Goldberg, Michael D & Frydman, Roman, 1996. "Imperfect Knowledge and Behaviour in the Foreign Exchange Market," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 106(437), pages 869-893, July.
    6. Müller, R.J., 2001. "Auctions : the big winner among trading mechanisms for the Internet economy," Research Memorandum 016, Maastricht University, Maastricht Economic Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
    7. Daniel L. Rubinfeld & David E.M. Sappington, 1987. "Efficient Awards and Standards of Proof in Judicial Proceedings," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 18(2), pages 308-315, Summer.
    8. Philippe Bacchetta & Eric van Wincoop, 2010. "Infrequent Portfolio Decisions: A Solution to the Forward Discount Puzzle," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(3), pages 870-904, June.
    9. Gordon Menzies & Daniel Zizzo, 2007. "Exchange Rate Markets And Conservative Inferential Expectations," CAMA Working Papers 2007-02, Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.
    10. Steven D. Levitt & John A. List, 2007. "What Do Laboratory Experiments Measuring Social Preferences Reveal About the Real World?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 153-174, Spring.
    11. Davis, Michael L, 1994. "The Value of Truth and the Optimal Standard of Proof in Legal Disputes," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 10(2), pages 343-359, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Timo Henckel & Gordon D. Menzies & Daniel J. Zizzo, 2013. "The Great Recession and the Two Dimensions of European Central Bank Credibility," CAMA Working Papers 2013-55, Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.
    2. Timo Henckel & Gordon Menzies & Peter Moffat & Daniel J. Zizzo, 2017. "Sticky Belief Adjustment: A Double Hurdle Model and Experimental Evidence," Working Paper Series 40, Economics Discipline Group, UTS Business School, University of Technology, Sydney.

    More about this item


    Belief conservatism; Experiment; Merger control; Professionalism; Standard of proof; L33; L40; L50; C91;

    JEL classification:

    • L33 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Comparison of Public and Private Enterprise and Nonprofit Institutions; Privatization; Contracting Out
    • L40 - Industrial Organization - - Antitrust Issues and Policies - - - General
    • L50 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - General
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior


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