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Expectations, Networks, and Conventions

71 Pages Posted: 3 Jun 2017 Last revised: 19 Jan 2018

Benjamin Golub

Harvard University

Stephen Morris

Princeton University - Department of Economics

Date Written: September 9, 2017


In coordination games and speculative over-the-counter financial markets, solutions depend on higher-order average expectations: agents' expectations about what counterparties, on average, expect their counterparties to think, etc. We offer a unified analysis of these objects and their limits, for general information structures, priors, and networks of counterparty relationships. Our key device is an interaction structure combining the network and agents' beliefs, which we analyze using Markov methods. This device allows us to nest classical beauty contests and network games within one model and unify their results. Two applications illustrate the techniques: The first characterizes when slight optimism about counterparties' average expectations leads to contagion of optimism and extreme asset prices. The second describes the tyranny of the least-informed: agents coordinating on the prior expectations of the one with the worst private information, despite all having nearly common certainty, based on precise private signals, of the ex post optimal action.

Keywords: networks, incomplete information, centrality, common prior, heterogeneous priors, network game

Suggested Citation

Golub, Benjamin and Morris, Stephen, Expectations, Networks, and Conventions (September 9, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Benjamin Golub (Contact Author)

Harvard University ( email )

Littauer Center, Dept of Economics
1805 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Stephen Edward Morris

Princeton University - Department of Economics ( email )

Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States

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