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Imitation and Luck: An Experimental Study on Social Sampling

Listed author(s):
  • Theo Offerman

    (University of Amsterdam)

  • Andrew Schotter

    (New York University)

In this paper, we present the results of two experiments on social sampling. In both experiments, people are asked to make a risky decision in a situation where an idiosyncratic luck term a?ects their performance. Before they make their decision, people have the opportunity to sample others who have done exactly the same problem before them. These previous participants are ranked on the basis of their success. In the first experiment, we find that, by and large, subjects sample and imitate lucky risk seekers, while they could have sampled others to retrieve information that is valuable to solve their problem rationally. The simple behavioral rule of imitating the best appears to be robust to the setting of the problem. In the second experiment, we find that subjects tend to imitate successful others in both the winner's curse version and the loser's curse version of the Bazerman-Samuelson takeover game. Because of the way these problems are constructed, imitation exacerbates the winner's curse while it alleviates the loser's curse. In all problems, social sampling makes people look more risk seeking than the people who do not have the opportunity to sample.

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File URL: http://cess.nyu.edu/0020:2007-02.pdf
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Paper provided by New York University, Center for Experimental Social Science in its series Working Papers with number 0020.

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Length: 27 pages
Date of creation: 12 Feb 2007
Handle: RePEc:cso:wpaper:0020
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Web page: http://cess.nyu.edu/

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  1. Theo Offerman & Joep Sonnemans, 2004. "What's Causing Overreaction? An Experimental Investigation of Recency and the Hot-hand Effect," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 106(3), pages 533-554, October.
  2. Apesteguia, Jose & Huck, Steffen & Oechssler, Jorg, 2007. "Imitation--theory and experimental evidence," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 136(1), pages 217-235, September.
  3. Holt, Charles A & Sherman, Roger, 1994. "The Loser's Curse," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 642-652, June.
  4. Schlag, Karl H., 1999. "Which one should I imitate?," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 493-522, May.
  5. Theo Offerman & Jan Potters & Joep Sonnemans, 2002. "Imitation and Belief Learning in an Oligopoly Experiment," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(4), pages 973-997.
  6. Josef Hofbauer & Karl H. Schlag, 2000. "Sophisticated imitation in cyclic games," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 10(5), pages 523-543.
  7. Nick Feltovich & John Duffy, 1999. "Does observation of others affect learning in strategic environments? An experimental study," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer;Game Theory Society, vol. 28(1), pages 131-152.
  8. Glenn Ellison & Drew Fudenberg, 1995. "Word-of-Mouth Communication and Social Learning," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(1), pages 93-125.
  9. Gilboa,Itzhak & Schmeidler,David, 2001. "A Theory of Case-Based Decisions," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521802345.
  10. Rustichini, Aldo, 1999. "Optimal Properties of Stimulus--Response Learning Models," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 29(1-2), pages 244-273, October.
  11. Charles A. Holt & Susan K. Laury, 2002. "Risk Aversion and Incentive Effects," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1644-1655, December.
  12. Celen, Bogachan & Kariv, Shachar, 2004. "Observational learning under imperfect information," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 47(1), pages 72-86, April.
  13. Schlag, Karl H., 1998. "Why Imitate, and If So, How?, : A Boundedly Rational Approach to Multi-armed Bandits," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 78(1), pages 130-156, January.
  14. Selten, Reinhard & Apesteguia, Jose, 2005. "Experimentally observed imitation and cooperation in price competition on the circle," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 51(1), pages 171-192, April.
  15. Reinhard Selten & Klaus Abbink & Ricarda Cox, 2005. "Learning Direction Theory and the Winner’s Curse," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 8(1), pages 5-20, April.
  16. Fernando Vega-Redondo, 1997. "The Evolution of Walrasian Behavior," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(2), pages 375-384, March.
  17. Bogaçhan Çelen & Shachar Kariv, 2004. "Distinguishing Informational Cascades from Herd Behavior in the Laboratory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 484-498, June.
  18. Matthew Rabin, 2002. "Inference by Believers in the Law of Small Numbers," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(3), pages 775-816.
  19. Anderson, Lisa R & Holt, Charles A, 1997. "Information Cascades in the Laboratory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(5), pages 847-862, December.
  20. repec:pit:wpaper:275 is not listed on IDEAS
  21. Abbink, Klaus & Brandts, Jordi, 2008. "24. Pricing in Bertrand competition with increasing marginal costs," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 63(1), pages 1-31, May.
  22. Offerman, Theo & Sonnemans, Joep, 1998. "Learning by experience and learning by imitating successful others," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 34(4), pages 559-575, March.
  23. Boğaçhan Çelen & Shachar Kariv, 2005. "An experimental test of observational learning under imperfect information," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 26(3), pages 677-699, October.
  24. Huck, Steffen & Normann, Hans-Theo & Oechssler, Jorg, 1999. "Learning in Cournot Oligopoly--An Experiment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(454), pages 80-95, March.
  25. Colin F. Camerer, 1997. "Progress in Behavioral Game Theory," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(4), pages 167-188, Fall.
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