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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Theo Offerman & Andrew Schotter, 2007. "Imitation and Luck: An Experimental Study on Social Sampling," Working Papers 0020, New York University, Center for Experimental Social Science.
  • Handle: RePEc:cso:wpaper:0020

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    References listed on IDEAS

    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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Hedlund, Jonas & Oyarzun, Carlos, 2016. "Imitation in Heterogeneous Populations," Working Papers 0625, University of Heidelberg, Department of Economics.
    2. Silvia Bou & Jordi Brandts & Magda Cayón & Pablo Guillén, 2016. "The price of luck: paying for the hot hand of others," Journal of the Economic Science Association, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 2(1), pages 60-72, May.
    3. Fosco, Constanza & Mengel, Friederike, 2011. "Cooperation through imitation and exclusion in networks," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 35(5), pages 641-658, May.
    4. Eisenkopf, Gerald & Friehe, Tim, 2014. "Stop watching and start listening! The impact of coaching and peer observation in tournaments," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 56-70.
    5. Duffy, John & Kornienko, Tatiana, 2010. "Does competition affect giving?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 74(1-2), pages 82-103, May.
    6. Bennett, Daniel & Chiang, Chun-Fang & Malani, Anup, 2015. "Learning during a crisis: The SARS epidemic in Taiwan," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 112(C), pages 1-18.
    7. Sergio Sousa, 2010. "Are smarter people really less risk averse?," Discussion Papers 2010-17, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
    8. Boyer, Tristan & Jonard, Nicolas, 2014. "Imitation and efficient contagion," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 20-32.
    9. repec:ipg:wpaper:2014-052 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Tristan Boyer & Nicolas Jonard, 2014. "Imitation and Efficient Contagion," Working Papers 2014-52, Department of Research, Ipag Business School.
    11. Erik Mohlin & Robert Ostling & Joseph Tao-yi Wang, 2014. "Learning by Imitation in Games: Theory, Field, and Laboratory," Economics Series Working Papers 734, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.

    More about this item


    Imitation; Social Learning;

    JEL classification:

    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior

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