IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Imitators and Optimizers in Cournot Oligopoly

  • Burkhard Schipper

We present a formal model of symmetric n-firm Cournot oligopoly with a heterogeneous population of profit optimizers and imitators. Imitators mimic the output decision of the most successful firms of the previous round a la Vega-Redondo (1997). Optimizers play myopic best response to the opponents' previous output. The dynamics of the decision rules induce a Markov chain. As expression of bounded rationality, firms are allowed to make mistakes and deviate from the decision rules with a small probability. Applying stochastic stability analysis, we characterize the long run behavior of the oligopoly. We find that the long run distribution converges to a recurrent set of states in which imitators are better off than optimizers. This finding appears to be robust even when optimizers are more sophisticated. It suggests that imitators drive optimizers out of the market contradicting a fundamental conjecture by Friedman (1953).

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by University of Bonn, Germany in its series Bonn Econ Discussion Papers with number bgse29_2002.

in new window

Length: 44
Date of creation: Oct 2002
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:bon:bonedp:bgse29_2002
Contact details of provider: Postal:
Bonn Graduate School of Economics, University of Bonn, Adenauerallee 24 - 26, 53113 Bonn, Germany

Fax: +49 228 73 6884
Web page:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Novshek, William., 1983. "Perfectly Competitive Markets as the Limits of Cournot Markets," Working Papers 499, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  2. Glenn Ellison, 2000. "Basins of Attraction, Long-Run Stochastic Stability, and the Speed of Step-by-Step Evolution," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 67(1), pages 17-45.
  3. Noldeke Georg & Samuelson Larry, 1993. "An Evolutionary Analysis of Backward and Forward Induction," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 5(3), pages 425-454, July.
  4. Droste, Edward & Hommes, Cars & Tuinstra, Jan, 2002. "Endogenous fluctuations under evolutionary pressure in Cournot competition," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 232-269, August.
  5. Dürsch, Peter & Kolb, Albert & Oechssler, Jörg & Schipper, Burkhard, 2005. "Rage against the machines : how subjects learn to play against computers," Papers 05-36, Sonderforschungsbreich 504.
  6. Kockesen, Levent & Ok, Efe A. & Sethi, Rajiv, 1997. "The Strategic Advantage of Negatively Interdependent Preferences," Working Papers 97-34, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  7. Noldeke, G. & Samuelson, L., 1995. "A Dynamic Model of Equilibrium Selection in Signaling Markets," Working papers 9518, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  8. Milgrom, P. & Shannon, C., 1991. "Monotone Comparative Statics," Papers 11, Stanford - Institute for Thoretical Economics.
  9. Amir, Rabah, 1996. "Cournot Oligopoly and the Theory of Supermodular Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 132-148, August.
  10. Alex Possajennikov, 2003. "Evolutionary foundations of aggregate-taking behavior," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 21(4), pages 921-928, 06.
  11. Rabah Amir & Val E. Lambson, 2000. "On the Effects of Entry in Cournot Markets," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 67(2), pages 235-254.
  12. Carlos Alós-Ferrer, 2001. "Cournot versus Walras in Dynamic Oligopolies with Memory," Vienna Economics Papers 0110, University of Vienna, Department of Economics.
  13. Corchon, L.C., 1990. "On Natural Selection in Oligopolistic Markets," Papers 32, Universidad de Alicante - Fundamentos de Analisis Economico.
  14. Prajit K. Dutta & Roy Radner, 1999. "Profit Maximization and the Market Selection Hypothesis," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(4), pages 769-798.
  15. Jorgen W. Weibull, 1997. "Evolutionary Game Theory," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262731215, December.
  16. Armen A. Alchian, 1950. "Uncertainty, Evolution, and Economic Theory," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 58, pages 211.
  17. Hehenkamp, Burkhard & Kaarbøe, Oddvar M., 2003. "Imitators and Optimizers in a Changing Environment," Working Papers in Economics 03/03, University of Bergen, Department of Economics.
  18. Lawrence E. Blume & David Easley, 1998. "Optimality and Natural Selection in Markets," Working Papers 98-09-082, Santa Fe Institute.
  19. Alvaro Sandroni, 2000. "Do Markets Favor Agents Able to Make Accurate Predicitions?," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(6), pages 1303-1342, November.
  20. Dubey, Pradeep & Haimanko, Ori & Zapechelnyuk, Andriy, 2006. "Strategic complements and substitutes, and potential games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 77-94, January.
  21. Douglas Gale & Robert W. Rosenthal, 1996. "Experimentation, Imitation, and Stochastic Stability," Papers 0065, Boston University - Industry Studies Programme.
  22. Young, H Peyton, 1993. "The Evolution of Conventions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 61(1), pages 57-84, January.
  23. Steffen Huck & Hans-Theo Normann & Joerg Oechssler, 1998. "Does information about competitors' actions increase or decrease competition in experimental oligopoly markets?," Industrial Organization 9803004, EconWPA.
  24. Hommes, Cars H., 2006. "Heterogeneous Agent Models in Economics and Finance," Handbook of Computational Economics, in: Leigh Tesfatsion & Kenneth L. Judd (ed.), Handbook of Computational Economics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 23, pages 1109-1186 Elsevier.
  25. ROBERTS, John, . "On the existence of Cournot equilibrium without concave profit functions," CORE Discussion Papers RP 260, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  26. Karl H. Schlag, 1995. "Why Imitate, and if so, How? A Bounded Rational Approach to Multi-Armed Bandits," Discussion Paper Serie B 361, University of Bonn, Germany, revised Mar 1996.
  27. Juang, Wei-Torng, 2002. "Rule Evolution and Equilibrium Selection," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 71-90, April.
  28. Fershtman, Chaim & Judd, Kenneth L, 1987. "Equilibrium Incentives in Oligopoly," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 927-40, December.
  29. Bulow, Jeremy I & Geanakoplos, John D & Klemperer, Paul D, 1985. "Multimarket Oligopoly: Strategic Substitutes and Complements," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(3), pages 488-511, June.
  30. Slade, Margaret E, 1994. "What Does an Oligopoly Maximize?," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 42(1), pages 45-61, March.
  31. Theo Offerman & Jan Potters & Joep Sonnemans, 1997. "Imitation and Belief Learning in an Oligopoly Experiment," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 97-116/1, Tinbergen Institute.
  32. Steffen Huck & Hans-Theo Normann & Joerg Oechssler, 1997. "Learning in Cournot Oligopoly - An Experiment," Game Theory and Information 9707009, EconWPA, revised 22 Jul 1997.
  33. Rhode, Paul & Stegeman, Mark, 2001. "Non-Nash equilibria of Darwinian dynamics with applications to duopoly," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 19(3-4), pages 415-453, March.
  34. K. Schlag, 2010. "Why Imitate, and if so, How? Exploring a Model of Social Evolution," Levine's Working Paper Archive 454, David K. Levine.
  35. Monderer, Dov & Shapley, Lloyd S., 1996. "Potential Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 124-143, May.
  36. Kandori, M. & Mailath, G.J., 1991. "Learning, Mutation, And Long Run Equilibria In Games," Papers 71, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - John M. Olin Program.
  37. Kaarboe, O.M. & Tieman, A.F., 1999. "Equilibrium Selection under Different Learning Modes in Supermodular Games," Norway; Department of Economics, University of Bergen 1299, Department of Economics, University of Bergen.
  38. Tesfatsion, Leigh & Judd, Kenneth L., 2006. "Handbook of Computational Economics, Vol. 2: Agent-Based Computational Economics," Staff General Research Papers Archive 10368, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  39. Drew Fudenberg & David K. Levine, 1998. "Learning in Games," Levine's Working Paper Archive 2222, David K. Levine.
  40. Schaffer, Mark E., 1989. "Are profit-maximisers the best survivors? : A Darwinian model of economic natural selection," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 29-45, August.
  41. Samuelson Larry, 1994. "Stochastic Stability in Games with Alternative Best Replies," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 64(1), pages 35-65, October.
  42. Carlos Alós-Ferrer & Ana Ania, 2005. "The evolutionary stability of perfectly competitive behavior," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 26(3), pages 497-516, October.
  43. Burkhard Schipper, 2002. "Submodularity and the Evolution of Walrasian Behavior," Bonn Econ Discussion Papers bgse4_2003, University of Bonn, Germany.
  44. Conlisk, John, 1980. "Costly optimizers versus cheap imitators," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 1(3), pages 275-293, September.
  45. repec:tcd:wpaper:tep6 is not listed on IDEAS
  46. Fernando Vega-Redondo, 1997. "The Evolution of Walrasian Behavior," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(2), pages 375-384, March.
  47. Moulin, Herve, 1984. "Dominance solvability and cournot stability," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 83-102, February.
  48. Vives, X., 1988. "Nash Equilibrium With Strategic Complementarities," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 107-88, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
  49. Xavier Vives, 2001. "Oligopoly Pricing: Old Ideas and New Tools," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 026272040x, December.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:bon:bonedp:bgse29_2002. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (BGSE Office)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.