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Published September 2009 | Submitted
Report Open

Information Gatekeepers: Theory and Experimental Evidence


We consider a model where two adversaries can spend resources in acquiring public information about the unknown state of the world in order to influence the choice of a decision maker. We characterize the sampling strategies of the adversaries in the equilibrium of the game. We show that, as the cost of information acquisition for one adversary increases, that person collects less evidence whereas the other adversary collects more evidence. We then test the results in a controlled laboratory setting. The behavior of subjects is close to the theoretical predictions. Mistakes are relatively infrequent (15%). They occur in both directions, with more over-sampling (39%) than under-sampling (8%). The main difference with the theory is the smooth decline in sampling around the theoretical equilibrium. Comparative statics are also consistent with the theory, with adversaries sampling more when their own cost is low and when the other adversary's cost is high. Finally, there is little evidence of learning over the 40 matches of the experiment.

Additional Information

We thank M. Castro, S.H. Chew, G. Frechette, A. Gaduh, D. Houser, E. Kamenica, S. Singhal, and the audiences at the CIRANO Political Economy workshop in Montreal, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the National University of Singapore, the North American meeting of the European Science Association and the Stanford Institute for Theoretical Economics for comments, Dustin Beckett for research assistance, and Chris Crabbe for developing the software. We also thank the financial support of the National Science Foundation (SES-0617820), The Social Science Experimental Laboratory at Caltech, The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the LUSK Center, the Office of the Provost at the University of Southern California and the Microsoft Corporation. Published in Economic Theory, 51(3), 649-676.

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