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Learning in a Complex World Insights from an OLG Lab Experiment


  • Cars Hommes

    (Canadian Economic Analysis, Bank of Canada; CeNDEF, Amsterdam School of Economics, University of Amsterdam; Tinbergen Institute, Amsterdam)

  • Stefanie J. Huber

    (Department of Economics, University of Bonn; ECONtribute Research Cluster)

  • Daria Minina

    (CeNDEF, Amsterdam School of Economics, University of Amsterdam)

  • Isabelle Salle

    (Department of Economics, University of Ottawa; Macro and International Economics, Amsterdam School of Economics, University of Amsterdam; Tinbergen Institute, Amsterdam)


This paper brings novel insights into group coordination and price dynamics in complex environments. We implement an overlapping-generation model in the lab, where the output dynamics is given by the well-known chaotic quadratic map. This model structure allows us to study previously unexplored parameter regions where the perfect-foresight dynamics exhibits chaotic dynamics. This paper highlights three key findings. First, the price converges to the simplest equilibria, namely the monetary steady state or the two-cycle, in all markets. Second, we document a novel and intriguing finding: we observe a non-monotonicity of the behavior when complexity increases. Convergence to the two-cycle occurs for the intermediate parameter range, while both the extreme scenarios of a simple stable two-cycle and highly non-linear dynamics (with chaos) lead to coordination on the steady state in the lab. All indicators of coordination and convergence significantly exhibit this non-monotonic relationship in the learning-to-forecast experiments and this non-monotonicity persists in the learning-to-optimize design. Third, convergence in the learning-to-optimize experiment is more challenging to achieve: coordination on the two-cycle is never observed, although the two-cycle Pareto-dominates the steady state in our design.

Suggested Citation

  • Cars Hommes & Stefanie J. Huber & Daria Minina & Isabelle Salle, 2024. "Learning in a Complex World Insights from an OLG Lab Experiment," ECONtribute Discussion Papers Series 283, University of Bonn and University of Cologne, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:ajk:ajkdps:283

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. William A. Brock & Cars H. Hommes, 2001. "A Rational Route to Randomness," Chapters, in: W. D. Dechert (ed.), Growth Theory, Nonlinear Dynamics and Economic Modelling, chapter 16, pages 402-438, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    2. Marimon, Ramon & Sunder, Shyam, 1993. "Indeterminacy of Equilibria in a Hyperinflationary World: Experimental Evidence," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 61(5), pages 1073-1107, September.
    3. Lucas, Robert E, Jr, 1978. "Asset Prices in an Exchange Economy," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(6), pages 1429-1445, November.
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    5. Grandmont, Jean-Michel, 1985. "On Endogenous Competitive Business Cycles," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(5), pages 995-1045, September.
    6. Hommes,Cars, 2015. "Behavioral Rationality and Heterogeneous Expectations in Complex Economic Systems," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9781107564978, November.
    7. Arifovic, Jasmina & Hommes, Cars & Salle, Isabelle, 2019. "Learning to believe in simple equilibria in a complex OLG economy - evidence from the lab," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 183(C), pages 106-182.
    8. Binder, Carola C., 2017. "Measuring uncertainty based on rounding: New method and application to inflation expectations," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 1-12.
    9. Marimon Ramon & Spear Stephen E. & Sunder Shyam, 1993. "Expectationally Driven Market Volatility: An Experimental Study," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 74-103, October.
    10. Aliprantis, Charalambos D & Plott, Charles R, 1992. "Competitive Equilibria in Overlapping Generations Experiments," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 2(3), pages 389-426, July.
    11. Lim, Suk S & Prescott, Edward C & Sunder, Shyam, 1994. "Stationary Solution to the Overlapping Generations Model of Fiat Money: Experimental Evidence," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 19(2), pages 255-277.
    12. Bullard, James & Duffy, John, 1998. "Learning And The Stability Of Cycles," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 2(1), pages 22-48, March.
    13. William A. Brock & Cars H. Hommes, 1997. "A Rational Route to Randomness," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(5), pages 1059-1096, September.
    14. George Evans, 1985. "Expectational Stability and the Multiple Equilibria Problem in Linear Rational Expectations Models," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 100(4), pages 1217-1233.
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    More about this item


    Overlapping-generation (OLG) models; Complexity; Learning; Equilibria se- lection; Laboratory experiments;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • E70 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - General
    • E17 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General Aggregative Models - - - Forecasting and Simulation: Models and Applications
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • C62 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Existence and Stability Conditions of Equilibrium

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