Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2014

Decision Making Under Information Asymmetry: Experimental Evidence on Belief Refinements

by William Schmidt and Ryan W. Buell


We explore how individuals make decisions in an operations management setting when there is information asymmetry between the firm and an outside investor. A common assumption in the signaling game literature is that beliefs among the participants in the game are refined using the Intuitive Criterion refinement. Our experimental results provide evidence that the predictive power of this refinement is quite low, and that the Undefeated refinement better captures actual choice behavior. This is surprising because the Intuitive Criterion refinement is the most commonly utilized belief refinement in the literature while the Undefeated refinement is rarely employed. Our results have material implications for both research and practice because the Undefeated and Intuitive Criterion refinements often produce divergent predictions. Our results demonstrate that conformance to the Undefeated and Intuitive Criterion refinements is influenced by changes in the underlying newsvendor model parameters. We also show that adherence to the Undefeated refinement is especially pronounced among subjects who report a high level of understanding of the game and that subjects whose choices conformed with the predictions of the Undefeated refinement were rewarded by investors with higher payoffs in the game. Finally, we demonstrate, through a reexamination of Cachon and Lariviere (2001), how the application of the Undefeated refinement can substantively extend the implications of extant signaling game theory in the operations management literature.

Keywords: Decision Choices and Conditions;


Schmidt, William, and Ryan W. Buell. "Decision Making Under Information Asymmetry: Experimental Evidence on Belief Refinements." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 15-001, July 2014.