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From imitation to collusion: Long-run learning in a low-information environment

  • Friedman, Daniel
  • Huck, Steffen
  • Oprea, Ryan
  • Weidenholzer, Simon

We explore the stability of imitation in a 1,200-period experimental Cournot game where subjects do not know the payoff function but see the output quantities and payoffs of each oligopolist after every period. In line with theoretical predictions and previous experimental findings, our oligopolies reach highly competitive levels within 50 periods. However, already after 100 periods quantities start to drop and, eventually fall deep into collusive territory without pausing at the Nash equilibrium. Our results demonstrate how groups of subjects can learn their way out of dysfunctional heuristics, and thus suggest the need for a new theory of how cooperation emerges.

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Paper provided by Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB) in its series Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Economics of Change with number SP II 2012-301.

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Date of creation: 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:zbw:wzbeoc:spii2012301
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  1. Karl H. Schlag, 1995. "Why Imitate, and if so, How? A Bounded Rational Approach to Multi-Armed Bandits," Discussion Paper Serie B 361, University of Bonn, Germany, revised Mar 1996.
  2. repec:bla:restud:v:54:y:1987:i:1:p:105-45 is not listed on IDEAS
  3. Apesteguia, Jose & Huck, Steffen & Oechssler, Jörg & Weidenholzer, Simon, 2010. "Imitation and the evolution of Walrasian behavior: Theoretically fragile but behaviorally robust," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 145(5), pages 1603-1617, September.
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  6. José Apesteguía & Steffen Huck & Jorg Oechssler, 2003. "Imitation-Theory and Experimental Evidence-," Documentos de Trabajo - Lan Gaiak Departamento de Economía - Universidad Pública de Navarra 0306, Departamento de Economía - Universidad Pública de Navarra.
  7. J. Robinson, 1969. "An Iterative Method of Solving a Game," Levine's Working Paper Archive 422, David K. Levine.
  8. Siegfried Berninghaus & Karl-Martin Ehrhart & Claudia Keser, 1999. "Continuous-Time Strategy Selection in Linear Population Games," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 2(1), pages 41-57, August.
  9. Ellison, Glenn & Fudenberg, Drew, 1993. "Rules of Thumb for Social Learning," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(4), pages 612-43, August.
  10. Bernheim, B Douglas, 1994. "A Theory of Conformity," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 841-77, October.
  11. Steffen Huck & Hans-Theo Normann & Joerg Oechssler, 2004. "Through Trial and Error to Collusion," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 45(1), pages 205-224, 02.
  12. Carlos Alós-Ferrer & Ana Ania, 2005. "The evolutionary stability of perfectly competitive behavior," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 26(3), pages 497-516, October.
  13. Eshel, Ilan & Samuelson, Larry & Shaked, Avner, 1998. "Altruists, Egoists, and Hooligans in a Local Interaction Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 157-79, March.
  14. Steffen Huck & Hans-Theo Normann & Joerg Oechssler, 1997. "Learning in Cournot Oligopoly - An Experiment," Game Theory and Information 9707009, EconWPA, revised 22 Jul 1997.
  15. Offerman, T.J.S. & Potters, J.J.M. & Sonnemans, J., 2002. "Imitation and belief learning in an oligopoly experiment," Other publications TiSEM a6a771c5-31ba-4193-8f76-a, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
  16. Alan Beggs, 2002. "On the Convergence of Reinforcement Learning," Economics Series Working Papers 96, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  17. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1991. "Adaptive and sophisticated learning in normal form games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 3(1), pages 82-100, February.
  18. Huck, Steffen & Normann, Hans-Theo & Oechssler, Jorg, 2004. "Two are few and four are many: number effects in experimental oligopolies," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 53(4), pages 435-446, April.
  19. Antoni Bosch-DomËnech & Nicolaas J. Vriend, 2003. "Imitation of successful behaviour in cournot markets," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(487), pages 495-524, 04.
  20. Ben Greiner, 2004. "The Online Recruitment System ORSEE - A Guide for the Organization of Experiments in Economics," Papers on Strategic Interaction 2003-10, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Strategic Interaction Group.
  21. Paul Milgrom & John Roberts, 2010. "Adaptive and Sophisticated Learning in Repeated Normal-Form Games," Levine's Working Paper Archive 418, David K. Levine.
  22. Selten, Reinhard & Stoecker, Rolf, 1986. "End behavior in sequences of finite Prisoner's Dilemma supergames A learning theory approach," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 47-70, March.
  23. K. Schlag, 2010. "Why Imitate, and if so, How? Exploring a Model of Social Evolution," Levine's Working Paper Archive 454, David K. Levine.
  24. Fernando Vega Redondo, 1996. "The evolution of walrasian behavior," Working Papers. Serie AD 1996-05, Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Económicas, S.A. (Ivie).
  25. Daniel Friedman & Ryan Oprea, 2012. "A Continuous Dilemma," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(1), pages 337-63, February.
  26. James Pettit & Daniel Friedman & Curtis Kephart & Ryan Oprea, 2014. "Software for continuous game experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 17(4), pages 631-648, December.
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