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Diffusion by Imitation: The Importance of Targeting Agents

  • Nikolas Tsakas

We study the optimal targeting strategy of a planner who seeks to maximize the diffusion of an action in a network where agents imitate successful past behavior of their neighbors. We find that the optimal targeting strategy depends on two parameters: (i) the likelihood of the action being more successful than its alternative and (ii) the planner's patience. More specifically, when the planner's preferred action has higher probability of being more successful than its alternative, then the optimal strategy for an infinitely patient planner is to concentrate all the targeted agents in one connected group; whereas when this probability is lower it is optimal to spread them uniformly around the network. Interestingly, for a very impatient planner, the optimal targeting strategy is exactly the opposite. Our results highlight the importance of knowing a society's exact network structure for the efficient design of targeting strategies, especially in settings where the agents are positionally similar.

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Paper provided by Job Market Papers in its series 2013 Papers with number pts99.

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Date of creation: 08 Dec 2013
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Handle: RePEc:jmp:jm2013:pts99
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  1. Jose Apesteguia & Steffen Huck & Jorg Oechssler, 2003. "Imitation - Theory and Experimental Evidence," Experimental 0309001, EconWPA.
  2. Fernando Vega-Redondo, 1997. "The Evolution of Walrasian Behavior," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(2), pages 375-384, March.
  3. Bala, V. & Goyal, S., 1995. "Learning from Neighbors," Econometric Institute Research Papers EI 9549-/A, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Erasmus School of Economics (ESE), Econometric Institute.
  4. K. Schlag, 2010. "Why Imitate, and if so, How? Exploring a Model of Social Evolution," Levine's Working Paper Archive 454, David K. Levine.
  5. Ellison, Glenn & Fudenberg, Drew, 1993. "Rules of Thumb for Social Learning," Scholarly Articles 3196332, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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  7. M. Bigoni & M. Fort, 2013. "Information and Learning in Oligopoly: an Experiment," Working Papers wp860, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
  8. Gale, Douglas & Kariv, Shachar, 2003. "Bayesian learning in social networks," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 45(2), pages 329-346, November.
  9. 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.
  10. Tsakas Nikolas, 2014. "Imitating the Most Successful Neighbor in Social Networks," Review of Network Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 12(4), pages 33, February.
  11. Karl H. Schlag, 1995. "Why Imitate, and if so, How? A Bounded Rational Approach to Multi-Armed Bandits," Discussion Paper Serie B 361, University of Bonn, Germany, revised Mar 1996.
  12. Banerjee, Abhijit & Fudenberg, Drew, 2004. "Word-of-mouth learning," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 1-22, January.
  13. Alós-Ferrer, Carlos & Weidenholzer, Simon, 2008. "Contagion and efficiency," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 143(1), pages 251-274, November.
  14. Banerjee, Abhijit V, 1992. "A Simple Model of Herd Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(3), pages 797-817, August.
  15. Eshel, Ilan & Samuelson, Larry & Shaked, Avner, 1998. "Altruists, Egoists, and Hooligans in a Local Interaction Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 157-79, March.
  16. Timothy G. Conley & Christopher R. Udry, 2005. "Learning about a new technology: pineapple in Ghana," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
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