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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 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, giving the principal an incentive to reduce the continuation value of the project. We characterize the set of recursive Markov equilibria. We show that there are non-Markov equilibria that make the principal better off than the recursive Markov equilibrium, and that may make both players 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.

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  • Johannes Horner & Larry Samuelson, 2009. "Incentives for Experimenting Agents," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1726R3, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University, revised Jun 2013.
  • Handle: RePEc:cwl:cwldpp:1726r3
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    Cited by:

    1. Chen, Chia-Hui & Ishida, Junichiro, 2018. "Hierarchical experimentation," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 177(C), pages 365-404.
    2. Li, Jin & Mukherjee, Arijit & Vasconcelos, Luis, 2019. "Managing performance evaluation systems: Relational incentives in the presence of learning-by-shirking," Working Papers 2018-12, Michigan State University, Department of Economics.
    3. Swagata Bhattacharjee, 2019. "Dynamic Contracting for Innovation Under Ambiguity," Working Papers 1022, Ashoka University, Department of Economics, revised Aug 2019.
    4. Helmut Bester & Matthias Dahm, 2018. "Credence Goods, Costly Diagnosis and Subjective Evaluation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 128(611), pages 1367-1394, June.
    5. Heidhues, Paul & Rady, Sven & Strack, Philipp, 2015. "Strategic experimentation with private payoffs," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 159(PA), pages 531-551.
    6. Carroll, Gabriel, 2019. "Robust incentives for information acquisition," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 181(C), pages 382-420.
    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. Johannes Hörner & Nicolas Klein & Sven Rady, 2019. "Overcoming Free-Riding in Bandit Games," CRC TR 224 Discussion Paper Series crctr224_2019_135v1, University of Bonn and University of Mannheim, Germany.
    11. Sadler, Evan, 2021. "Dead ends," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 191(C).
    12. Weng, Xi, 2015. "Dynamic pricing in the presence of individual learning," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 155(C), pages 262-299.
    13. Chia‐Hui Chen & Junichiro Ishida, 2018. "Dynamic performance evaluation with deadlines: The role of commitment," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 66(2), pages 377-422, June.
    14. Swagata Bhattacharjee, 2019. "Dynamic Contracting for Innovation Under Ambiguity," Working Papers 15, Ashoka University, Department of Economics, revised Aug 2019.
    15. 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.
    16. Forand, Jean Guillaume, 2015. "Keeping your options open," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 47-68.
    17. Khalil, Fahad & Lawarree, Jacques & Rodivilov, Alexander, 2020. "Learning from failures: Optimal contracts for experimentation and production," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 190(C).
    18. Terstiege, Stefan, 2014. "Private versus verifiable interim performance evaluations under uncertainty," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 123(3), pages 341-344.
    19. 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.
    20. Klein, Nicolas, 2016. "The importance of being honest," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 11(3), September.
    21. Juanjuan Zhang, 2016. "Deadlines in Product Development," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 62(11), pages 3310-3326, November.
    22. 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.
    23. Gao, Hong & Xu, Haibo, 2020. "Learning, belief manipulation and optimal relationship termination," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 190(C).
    24. Alessandro Spiganti, 2020. "Can Starving Start‐ups Beat Fat Labs? A Bandit Model of Innovation with Endogenous Financing Constraint," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 122(2), pages 702-731, April.
    25. Bhaskar, Venkataraman, 2014. "The Ratchet Effect Re-examined: A Learning Perspective," CEPR Discussion Papers 9956, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Experimentation; Learning; Agency; Dynamic agency; Venture capital; Repeated principal-agent problem;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

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

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