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Informational Herding and Optimal Experimentation

  • Lones Smith

    (Department of Economics, University of Michigan)

  • Peter Norman Sørensen

    (Department of Economics, University of Copenhagen)

We show that far from capturing a formally new phenomenon, informational herding is really a special case of single-person experimentation - and `bad herds' the typical failure of complete learning. We then analyze the analogous team equilibrium, where individuals maximize the present discounted welfare of posterity. To do so, we generalize Gittins indices to our non-bandit learning problem, and thereby characterize when contrarian behaviour arises: (i) While herds are still constrained efficient, they arise for a strictly smaller belief set. (ii) A log-concave log-likelihood ratio density robustly ensures that individuals should lean more against their myopic preference for an action the more popular it becomes.

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File URL: http://www.econ.ku.dk/english/research/publications/wp/2005/0513.pdf/
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Paper provided by University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics in its series Discussion Papers with number 05-13.

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Length: 37 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:kud:kuiedp:0513
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  1. Aghion, Philippe, et al, 1991. "Optimal Learning by Experimentation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 58(4), pages 621-54, July.
  2. Smith, L. & Sorensen, P., 1996. "Pathological Outcomes of Observational Learning," Economics Papers 115, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
  3. Dow, James, 1991. "Search Decisions with Limited Memory," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 58(1), pages 1-14, January.
  4. Chamley, Christophe & Gale, Douglas, 1994. "Information Revelation and Strategic Delay in a Model of Investment," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(5), pages 1065-85, September.
  5. Bikhchandani, Sushil & Hirshleifer, David & Welch, Ivo, 1992. "A Theory of Fads, Fashion, Custom, and Cultural Change in Informational Cascades," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(5), pages 992-1026, October.
  6. Vives, X., 1990. "How Fast Do Rational Agents Learn?," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 135-90, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
  7. Matthew Doyle, 2010. "Informational externalities, strategic delay, and optimal investment subsidies," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 43(3), pages 941-966, August.
  8. Banerjee, Abhijit V, 1992. "A Simple Model of Herd Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(3), pages 797-817, August.
  9. Sgroi, Daniel, 2002. "Optimizing Information in the Herd: Guinea Pigs, Profits, and Welfare," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 137-166, April.
  10. McLennan, Andrew, 1984. "Price dispersion and incomplete learning in the long run," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 331-347, September.
  11. Aghion Philippe & Bolton, Patrick & Harris Christopher & Jullien Bruno, 1991. "Optimal learning by experimentation," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Couverture Orange) 9104, CEPREMAP.
  12. Rothschild, Michael, 1974. "A two-armed bandit theory of market pricing," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 185-202, October.
  13. Amir, Rabah, 1996. "Sensitivity analysis of multisector optimal economic dynamics," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 123-141.
  14. Burdett, Kenneth, 1996. "Truncated means and variances," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 52(3), pages 263-267, September.
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