Abstract: In choices between uncertain options, information search can increase the chances of distinguishing good from bad options. However, many choices are made in the presence of other choosers who may seize the better option while one is still engaged in search. How long do (and should) people search before choosing between uncertain options in the presence of such competition? To address this question, we introduce a new experimental paradigm called the competitive sampling game. We use both simulation and empirical data to compare search and choice between competitive and solitary environments. Simulation results show that minimal search is adaptive when one expects competitors to choose quickly or is uncertain about how long competitors will search. Descriptively, we observe that competition drastically reduces information search prior to choice.
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