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Too big to prevail: The paradox of power in coalition formation


  • Changxia Ke
  • Florian Morath
  • Anthony Newell
  • Lionel Page


In standard coalition games, players try to form a coalition to secure a prize and a coalition agreement specifies how the prize is to be split among its members. However, in practical situations where coalitions are formed, the actual split of the prize often takes place after the coalition formation stage. This creates the possibility for some players to ask for a renegotiation of the initial split. We predict that, in such situations, a player can suffer from being "too strong". Our experimental results confirm that, when the actual split of the prize is delayed, a player's strength can turn into a strategic disadvantage: a greater voting power in forming a winning coalition is undermined by the threat of being overly powerful at the stage when a split is determined. This result is relevant to many real world situations where "too strong" players find it paradoxically hard to partner with weaker players to win the game.

Suggested Citation

  • Changxia Ke & Florian Morath & Anthony Newell & Lionel Page, 2021. "Too big to prevail: The paradox of power in coalition formation," Working Papers 2021-09, Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck.
  • Handle: RePEc:inn:wpaper:2021-09

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    More about this item


    Shapley Value; (Non) Binding Agreement; Balance of Power; Communication;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C71 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Cooperative Games
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions

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