Edinburgh Research Explorer

Information choice in a social learning experiment

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related Edinburgh Organisations

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-315
Number of pages21
JournalGames and Economic Behavior
Early online date25 Sep 2019
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


This paper reports on a social learning experiment that examines whether there is bias in information acquisition. In contrast to the standard sequential social learning experimental design of Anderson and Holt (1997) where subjects are given both private and social information prior to guessing an unknown binary state of the world, in our experiment, subjects must instead choose between receiving a private signal or seeing the guesses made by previous subjects in the sequence (i.e., social information) before forming their own guess. By requiring subjects to make this information choice at different points in the sequence, our within-subject design allows us to separate biased from optimal information choices. Overall, we find that once the number of previous guesses is 2 or greater, the majority of subjects exhibit a bias in favor of choosing social rather than private information. However, there is considerable heterogeneity, with a substantial minority behaving according to a refined equilibrium prediction as well as some subjects consistently choosing social information and others consistently choosing private information.

    Research areas

  • social learning, information, experiments, conformity, social influence

ID: 99608663