Communication with Unknown Perspectives

60 Pages Posted: 12 Sep 2013 Last revised: 17 Jan 2016

See all articles by Rajiv Sethi

Rajiv Sethi

Barnard College, Columbia University; Santa Fe Institute

Muhamet Yildiz

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics

Date Written: January 14, 2016


Consider a group of individuals with unobservable perspectives (subjective prior beliefs) about a sequence of states. In each period, each individual receives private information about the current state and forms an opinion (a posterior belief). She also chooses a target individual and observes the target's opinion. This choice involves a trade-off between well-informed targets, whose signals are precise, and well-understood targets, whose perspectives are well known. Opinions are informative about the target's perspective, so observed individuals become better understood over time. We identify a simple condition under which long-run behavior is history independent. When this fails, each individual restricts attention to a small set of experts and observes the most informed among these. A broad range of observational patterns can arise with positive probability, including opinion leadership and information segregation. In an application to areas of expertise, we show how these mechanisms generate own-field bias and large field dominance.

Keywords: Beliefs, Heterogeneous Priors, Network Formation, Opinion Leadership, Segregation

JEL Classification: D82, D83, D85

Suggested Citation

Sethi, Rajiv and Yildiz, Muhamet, Communication with Unknown Perspectives (January 14, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Rajiv Sethi

Barnard College, Columbia University ( email )

3009 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
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Santa Fe Institute

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Muhamet Yildiz (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics ( email )

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Room E52-522
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
617-253-5331 (Phone)
617-253-6915 (Fax)

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