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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
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Handle: RePEc:red:sed011:82
Contact details of provider: Postal: Society for Economic Dynamics Christian Zimmermann Economic Research Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis PO Box 442 St. Louis MO 63166-0442 USA
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Web page: http://www.EconomicDynamics.org/society.htm
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  1. 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.
  2. Keller, Godfrey & Rady, Sven, 2009. "Strategic Experimentation with Poisson Bandits," Discussion Papers in Economics 10575, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  3. Nicolas Klein & Sven Rady, 2011. "Negatively Correlated Bandits," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 78(2), pages 693-732.
  4. Cripps, Martin & Keller, Godfrey & Rady, Sven, 2003. "Strategic Experimentation with Exponential Bandits," Discussion Papers in Economics 4, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  5. Banks, Jeffrey S & Sundaram, Rangarajan K, 1992. "Denumerable-Armed Bandits," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(5), pages 1071-96, September.
  6. Dirk Bergemann & Juuso Vaimaki, 1999. "Stationary Multi Choice Bandit Problems," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1240, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  7. Banks, Jeffrey S & Sundaram, Rangarajan K, 1994. "Switching Costs and the Gittins Index," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(3), pages 687-94, May.
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