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Keeping Your Options Open

  • Jean Guillaume Forand

    ()

    (W. Allen Wallis Institute, University of Rochester)

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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File URL: http://rcer.econ.rochester.edu/RCERPAPERS/rcer_557.pdf
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Paper provided by University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER) in its series RCER Working Papers with number 557.

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Length: 32 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:roc:rocher:557
Contact details of provider: Postal: University of Rochester, Center for Economic Research, Department of Economics, Harkness 231 Rochester, New York 14627 U.S.A.

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  1. Nicolas Klein & Sven Rady, 2011. "Negatively Correlated Bandits," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 78(2), pages 693-732.
  2. Keller, R Godfrey & Rady, Sven, 2009. "Strategic Experimentation with Poisson Bandits," CEPR Discussion Papers 7270, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. 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.
  4. Godfrey Keller & Martin Cripps, 2003. "Strategic Experimentation with Exponential Bandits," Economics Series Working Papers 143, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  5. Godfrey Keller & Sven Rady & Martin Cripps, 2005. "Strategic Experimentation with Exponential Bandits," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(1), pages 39-68, 01.
  6. Banks, J.s. & Sunderam, R.K., 1991. "Denumerable-Armed Bandits," RCER Working Papers 277, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  7. Bergemann, Dirk & Valimaki, Juuso, 2001. "Stationary multi-choice bandit problems," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 25(10), pages 1585-1594, October.
  8. 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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