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Optimistic irrationality and overbidding in private value auctions

Georganas, S., Levin, D. and McGee, P. (2017). Optimistic irrationality and overbidding in private value auctions. Experimental Economics, doi: 10.1007/s10683-017-9510-y


Bidding one’s value in a second-price, private-value auction is a weakly dominant solution (Vickrey in J Finance 16(1):8–37, 1961), but repeated experimental studies find more overbidding than underbidding. We propose a model of optimistically irrational bidders who understand that there are possible gains and losses associated with higher bids but who may overestimate the additional probability of winning and/or underestimate the potential losses when bidding above value. These bidders may fail to discover the dominant strategy—despite the fact that the dominant strategy only requires rationality from bidders—but respond in a common sense way to out-of-equilibrium outcomes. By varying the monetary consequences of losing money in experimental auctions we observe more overbidding when the cost to losing money is low, and less overbidding when the cost is high. Our findings lend themselves to models in which less than fully rational bidders respond systematically to out-of-equilibrium incentives, and we find that our model better fits the effects of our manipulations than most of the existing models we consider.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: The final publication is available at Springer via
Publisher Keywords: Auctions, Dominant strategy, Out of equilibrium payoffs
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
Departments: School of Arts & Social Sciences > Economics
Date Deposited: 10 Feb 2017 10:34
Text - Accepted Version
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