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Are Claims Of Transparency All They Are Cracked Up To Be?

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  • Philip J. Grossman
  • Mana Komai
  • Evelyne Benie

Abstract

The current “buzzword” among leaders is “transparency.” Hardly a day goes by that a group leader (politician, manager, or administrator) doesn’t state that he values transparency and will provide full disclosure of his information and actions. This project tests experimentally whether or not leaders, when given a choice, actually reveal a preference for transparency. Our experiment is based on a theoretical model by Komai, Stegeman, and Hermalin (2007). Fifteen subjects are randomly assigned to five groups of three. Each group separately participates in an investment game with three possible return scenarios (high, average, and low) that are equally likely to happen. Investing in the low-return scenario is not profitable to either individual group members or the whole group. In the average-return scenario, group well-being is maximized if all the group members invest in the project, but full cooperation may not be achieved simply because the dominant strategy of the individuals is to free ride on others. In the high-return scenario full cooperation is also optimal for the group, but subjects may or may not coordinate on full cooperation because they may fail to coordinate their efforts with the others. We consider a leader-follower setting. Only one member of the group (the leader) observes the scenario. The leader moves before the rest of the group members and first decides whether or not to invest in the project. The leader then chooses between two information regimes: revealing his decision and the return scenario to the rest of the group or revealing his decision but not the return scenario. Absent any information provided by their leader, followers know only the possible return scenarios and their likelihoods. They do not know which scenario is assigned to their group. Given the leaders’ information choices and investment decisions, the relevant information will be conveyed to the followers. The followers then will separately and simultaneously decide whether or not to invest in the project (followers do not know anything about the different information regimes). This is realistic in many real-world circumstances because in many business or political environments the leaders have exclusive access to critical information and are in charge of deciding whether or not to reveal the details of their information and actions to their potential followers; in many circumstances it is practically difficult for the followers to verify the real information or the leaders’ actions.

Suggested Citation

  • Philip J. Grossman & Mana Komai & Evelyne Benie, 2011. "Are Claims Of Transparency All They Are Cracked Up To Be?," Monash Economics Working Papers 27-11, Monash University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:mos:moswps:2011-27
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    File URL: http://www.buseco.monash.edu.au/eco/research/papers/2011/2711areclaimsoftransparencygrossmankomaibenie.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Mana Komai & Philip J. Grossman & Travis Deters, 2011. "Leadership and information in a single‐shot collective action game: An experimental study," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 32(2), pages 119-134, March.
    2. Mana Komai & Mark Stegeman & Benjamin E. Hermalin, 2007. "Leadership and Information," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(3), pages 944-947, June.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Transparency; leading by example; free-riding; cooperation.;
    All these keywords.

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