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Strategic Experimentation with Private Payoffs

  • Heidhues, Paul
  • Rady, Sven
  • Strack, Philipp

We consider two players facing identical discrete-time bandit problems with a safe and a risky arm. In any period, the risky arm yields either a success or a failure, and the first success reveals the risky arm to dominate the safe one. When payoffs are public information, the ensuing free-rider problem is so severe that the equilibrium number of experiments is at most one plus the number of experiments that a single agent would perform. When payoffs are private information and players can communicate via cheap talk, the socially optimal symmetric experimentation profile can be supported as a perfect Bayesian equilibrium for sufficiently optimistic prior beliefs. These results generalize to more than two players whenever the success probability per period is not too high. In particular, this is the case when successes occur at the jump times of a Poisson process and the period length is sufficiently small.

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Paper provided by Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich in its series Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems with number 387.

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Date of creation: 25 Sep 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:trf:wpaper:387
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