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Incentives for Experimenting Agents

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Abstract

We examine a repeated interaction between an agent, who undertakes experiments, and a principal who provides the requisite funding for these experiments. The agent’s actions are hidden, and the principal cannot commit to future actions. The repeated interaction gives rise to a dynamic agency cost -- the more lucrative is the agent’s stream of future rents following a failure, the more costly are current incentives for the agent. As a result, the principal may deliberately delay experimental funding, reducing the continuation value of the project and hence the agent’s current incentive costs. We characterize the set of recursive Markov equilibria. We also find that there are non-Markov equilibria that make the principal better off than the recursive Markov equilibrium, and that may make both agents better off. Efficient equilibria front-load the agent’s effort, inducing as much experimentation as possible over an initial period, until making a switch to the worst possible continuation equilibrium. The initial phase concentrates the agent’s effort near the beginning of the project, where it is most valuable, while the eventual switch to the worst continuation equilibrium attenuates the dynamic agency cost.

Suggested Citation

  • Johannes Horner & Larry Samuelson, 2009. "Incentives for Experimenting Agents," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1726R, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University, revised Feb 2012.
  • Handle: RePEc:cwl:cwldpp:1726r
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    Cited by:

    1. Terstiege, Stefan, 2014. "Private versus verifiable interim performance evaluations under uncertainty," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 123(3), pages 341-344.
    2. Heidhues, Paul & Rady, Sven & Strack, Philipp, 2015. "Strategic experimentation with private payoffs," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 159(PA), pages 531-551.
    3. repec:aea:aejmic:v:9:y:2017:i:3:p:148-86 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Klein, Nicolas, 2016. "The importance of being honest," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 11(3), September.
    5. Forand, Jean Guillaume, 2015. "Keeping your options open," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 47-68.
    6. Chia-Hui Chen & Junichiro Ishida, 2017. "Rewarding Mediocrity? Optimal Regulation of R&D Markets with Reputation Concerns," ISER Discussion Paper 0994, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.
    7. Gomes, Renato & Gottlieb, Daniel & Maestri, Lucas, 2016. "Experimentation and project selection: Screening and learning," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 96(C), pages 145-169.
    8. Bhaskar, Venkataraman, 2012. "Dynamic Moral Hazard, Learning and Belief Manipulation," CEPR Discussion Papers 8948, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    9. Chia-Hui Chen & Junichiro Ishida, 2015. "A Tenure-Clock Problem," ISER Discussion Paper 0919, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.
    10. Weng, Xi, 2015. "Dynamic pricing in the presence of individual learning," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 155(C), pages 262-299.
    11. Catherine Bobtcheff & Raphaël Levy, 2017. "More Haste, Less Speed? Signaling through Investment Timing," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 148-186, August.
    12. Bhaskar, Venkataraman, 2014. "The Ratchet Effect Re-examined: A Learning Perspective," CEPR Discussion Papers 9956, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    13. Besanko, David & Tong, Jian & Wu, Jianjun, 2016. "Subsidizing research programs with "if" and "when" uncertainty in the face of severe informational constraints," Discussion Paper Series In Economics And Econometrics 1605, Economics Division, School of Social Sciences, University of Southampton.
    14. Chia-Hui Chen & Junichiro Ishida, 2017. "Dynamic Performance Evaluation with Deadlines: The Role of Commitment," ISER Discussion Paper 1015, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Experimentation; Learning; Agency; Dynamic agency; Venture capital; Repeated principal-agent problem;

    JEL classification:

    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty
    • L2 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior

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