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Keeping Your Options Open

  • Jean Guillaume Forand

    (Wallis Institute and University of Waterloo)

In standard models of experimentation, the costs of project development consist of (i) the direct cost of running trials as well as (ii) the implicit opportunity cost of leaving alternative projects idle. Another natural type of experimentation cost, the cost of holding on to the option of developing a currently inactive project, has not been studied. In a (multi-armed bandit) model of experimentation in which inactive projects have explicit maintenance costs and can be irreversibly discarded, I fully characterise the optimal experimentation policy and show that the decision-maker's incentive to actively manage its options has important implications for the order of project development. In the model, an experimenter searches for a success among a number of projects by choosing both those to develop now and those to maintain for (potential) future development. In the absence of maintenance costs, the optimal experimentation policy has a 'stay-with-the-winner' property: the projects that are more likely to succeed are developed first. Maintenance costs provide incentives to bring the option value of less promising projects forward, and under the optimal experimentation policy, projects that are less likely to succeed are sometimes developed first. A project development strategy of `going-with-the-loser' strikes a balance between the cost of discarding possibly valuable options and the cost of leaving them open.

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Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2011 Meeting Papers with number 82.

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Date of creation: 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:red:sed011:82
Contact details of provider: Postal: Society for Economic Dynamics Marina Azzimonti Department of Economics Stonybrook University 10 Nicolls Road Stonybrook NY 11790 USA
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  1. Johannes Horner & Larry Samuelson, 2013. "Incentives for Experimenting Agents," Levine's Working Paper Archive 786969000000000671, David K. Levine.
  2. Bergemann, Dirk & Valimaki, Juuso, 2001. "Stationary multi-choice bandit problems," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 25(10), pages 1585-1594, October.
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  4. Keller, R Godfrey & Rady, Sven, 2009. "Strategic Experimentation with Poisson Bandits," CEPR Discussion Papers 7270, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Sven Rady & Nicolas Klein, 2008. "Negatively Correlated Bandits," 2008 Meeting Papers 136, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  6. Banks, Jeffrey S & Sundaram, Rangarajan K, 1994. "Switching Costs and the Gittins Index," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(3), pages 687-94, May.
  7. Banks, J.s. & Sunderam, R.K., 1991. "Denumerable-Armed Bandits," RCER Working Papers 277, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  8. Godfrey Keller & Sven Rady & Martin Cripps, 2005. "Strategic Experimentation with Exponential Bandits," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(1), pages 39-68, 01.
  9. repec:cwl:cwldpp:1726rrr is not listed on IDEAS
  10. R. Preston Mcafee & Hugo M. Mialon & Sue H. Mialon, 2010. "Do Sunk Costs Matter?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 48(2), pages 323-336, 04.
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  12. David A. Malueg & Shunichi O. Tsutsui, 1997. "Dynamic R&D Competition with Learning," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 28(4), pages 751-772, Winter.
  13. Patrick Bolton & Christopher Harris, 1999. "Strategic Experimentation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(2), pages 349-374, March.
  14. Johannes Hörner & Larry Samuelson, 2013. "Incentives for experimenting agents," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 44(4), pages 632-663, December.
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