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The Value of Commitment in Contests and Tournaments when Observation is Costly

  • Morgan, John
  • Várdy, Felix

We study the value of commitment in contests and tournaments when there are costs for the follower to observe the leader's behavior. In a contest, the follower can pay to observe the leader's effort but cannot observe the effectiveness of that effort. In a tournament, the follower can pay to observe the effectiveness of the leader's effort but not the effort itself. We show that this distinction matters significantly: When observation is costly, the value of commitment vanishes entirely in sequential and endogenous move contests, regardless of the size of the observation cost. By contrast, in tournaments, the value of commitment is preserved completely, provided that the observation costs are sufficiently small.

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Paper provided by Competition Policy Center, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley in its series Competition Policy Center, Working Paper Series with number qt0s6752rf.

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Date of creation: 01 Feb 2005
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Handle: RePEc:cdl:compol:qt0s6752rf
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  1. Dixit, Avinash K, 1987. "Strategic Behavior in Contests," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 891-98, December.
  2. Jörg Oechssler & Karl H Schlag, 1997. "Loss of Commitment? An Evolutionary Analysis of Bagwell’s Example," Levine's Working Paper Archive 598, David K. Levine.
  3. Ehrenberg, Ronald G & Bognanno, Michael L, 1990. "Do Tournaments Have Incentive Effects?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1307-24, December.
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  5. Nitzan, Shmuel, 1994. "Modelling rent-seeking contests," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 41-60, May.
  6. Bagwell, Kyle, 1995. "Commitment and observability in games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 271-280.
  7. Morgan, John, 2000. "Financing Public Goods by Means of Lotteries," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 67(4), pages 761-84, October.
  8. Snyder, James M, 1989. "Election Goals and the Allocation of Campaign Resources," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(3), pages 637-60, May.
  9. Gueth, Werner & Kirchsteiger, Georg & Ritzberger, Klaus, 1996. "Imperfectly Observable Commitments in n-Player Games," Economics Series 35, Institute for Advanced Studies.
  10. Christian Riis & Derek J. Clark, 1997. "Contest success functions: an extension," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 11(1), pages 201-204.
  11. Baye, Michael R. & Hoppe, Heidrun C., 2003. "The strategic equivalence of rent-seeking, innovation, and patent-race games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 44(2), pages 217-226, August.
  12. Yildirim, Huseyin, 2005. "Contests with multiple rounds," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 51(1), pages 213-227, April.
  13. van Damme, E.E.C. & Hurkens, J.P.M., 1994. "Games with imperfectly observable commitment," Discussion Paper 1994-64, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  14. Gradstein, Mark, 1998. "Optimal contest design: volume and timing of rent seeking in contests," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 14(4), pages 575-585, November.
  15. Johnson, Paul E, 1996. " Corporate Political Offices in a Rent-Seeking Society," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 88(3-4), pages 309-31, September.
  16. Onsong Shin & Michael R. Baye, 1999. "Strategic Behavior in Contests: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(3), pages 691-693, June.
  17. Skaperdas, Stergios, 1996. "Contest Success Functions," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 7(2), pages 283-90, February.
  18. Huck, Steffen & Muller, Wieland, 2000. "Perfect versus Imperfect Observability--An Experimental Test of Bagwell's Result," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 31(2), pages 174-190, May.
  19. Morgan, John & Sefton, Martin, 2000. "Funding Public Goods with Lotteries: Experimental Evidence," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 67(4), pages 785-810, October.
  20. Amegashie, J Atsu, 1999. " The Design of Rent-Seeking Competitions: Committees, Preliminary and Final Contests," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 99(1-2), pages 63-76, April.
  21. Baik, Kyung H & Shogren, Jason F, 1992. "Strategic Behavior in Contests: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(1), pages 359-62, March.
  22. Taylor, Curtis R, 1995. "Digging for Golden Carrots: An Analysis of Research Tournaments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(4), pages 872-90, September.
  23. Gradstein, Mark & Konrad, Kai A, 1999. "Orchestrating Rent Seeking Contests," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(458), pages 536-45, October.
  24. Lazear, Edward P & Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 841-64, October.
  25. Morgan, John, 2003. " Sequential Contests," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 116(1-2), pages 1-18, July.
  26. V. Bhaskar, 2005. "Commitment and Observability in an Economic Environment," Economics Discussion Papers 596, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
  27. Avinash Dixit, 1999. "Strategic Behavior in Contests: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(3), pages 694-694, June.
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