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Imitation and Luck: An Experimental Study on Social Sampling

  • 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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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
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cso:wpaper:0020
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Web page: http://cess.nyu.edu/

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  1. Reinhard Selten & Klaus Abbink & Ricarda Cox, 2005. "Learning Direction Theory and the Winner’s Curse," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 8(1), pages 5-20, April.
  2. 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.
  3. José Apesteguía & Steffen Huck & Jorg Oechssler, 2003. "Imitation-Theory and Experimental Evidence-," Documentos de Trabajo - Lan Gaiak Departamento de Economía - Universidad Pública de Navarra 0306, Departamento de Economía - Universidad Pública de Navarra.
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  9. Ellison, Glenn & Fudenberg, Drew, 1995. "Word-of-Mouth Communication and Social Learning," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 110(1), pages 93-125, February.
  10. Josef Hofbauer & Karl H. Schlag, 2000. "Sophisticated imitation in cyclic games," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 10(5), pages 523-543.
  11. Rustichini, Aldo, 1999. "Optimal Properties of Stimulus--Response Learning Models," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 29(1-2), pages 244-273, October.
  12. Schlag, Karl H., 1999. "Which one should I imitate?," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 493-522, May.
  13. Offerman, T.J.S. & Potters, J.J.M. & Sonnemans, J., 2002. "Imitation and belief learning in an oligopoly experiment," Other publications TiSEM a6a771c5-31ba-4193-8f76-a, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
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  15. Steffen Huck & Hans-Theo Normann & Joerg Oechssler, 1997. "Learning in Cournot Oligopoly - An Experiment," Game Theory and Information 9707009, EconWPA, revised 22 Jul 1997.
  16. Colin F. Camerer, 1997. "Progress in Behavioral Game Theory," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(4), pages 167-188, Fall.
  17. 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.
  18. Duffy, John & Kornienko, Tatiana, 2010. "Does competition affect giving?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 74(1-2), pages 82-103, May.
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  20. 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.
  21. Holt, Charles A & Sherman, Roger, 1994. "The Loser's Curse," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 642-52, June.
  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. John Duffy & Nick Feltovich, 1997. "Does Observation of Others Affect Learning in Strategic Environments? An Experimental Study," Levine's Working Paper Archive 592, David K. Levine.
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