Bargaining on networks: An experiment
While markets are often decentralized, in many other cases agents in one role can only negotiate with a proper subset of the agents in the complementary role. There may be proximity issues or restricted communication flows. For example, information may be transmitted only through word-of-mouth, as is often the case for job openings, business opportunities, and confidential transactions. Bargaining can be considered to occur over a network that summarizes the structure of linkages among people. We conduct an alternating-offer bargaining experiment using separate simple networks, which are then joined during the session by an additional link. The results diverge sharply depending on how this connection is made. Payoffs can be systematically affected even for agents who are not connected by the new link. We use a graph-theoretic analysis to show that any two-sided network can be decomposed into simple networks of three types, so that our result can be generalized to more complex bargaining environments. Participants appear to grasp the essential characteristics of the networks and we observe a rather consistently high level of bargaining efficiency.
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