A Theory of Influence: The Strategic Value of Public Ignorance

29 Pages Posted: 3 Feb 2005

See all articles by Isabelle Brocas

Isabelle Brocas

University of Southern California - Department of Economics

Juan D. Carrillo

University of Southern California - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 2005

Abstract

We analyze an agency model where one individual decides how much evidence he collects. We assume that he has free access to information, but all the news acquired become automatically public. Conditional on the information disclosed, a second individual with conflicting preferences undertakes an action that affects the payoff of both agents. In this game of incomplete but symmetric information, we show that the first individual obtains rents due to his superior ability to decide whether to collect or forego evidence, i.e., due to his control in the generation of (public) information. We provide an analytical characterization of these rents, that we label "rents of public ignorance". They can be interpreted as, for example, the degree of influence that a chairman can exert on a committee due exclusively to his capacity to decide whether to keep discussions alive or terminate them and call a vote. Last, we show that similar insights are obtained if the agent decides first how much private information he collects and then how much of this information he transmits to the other agent.

Keywords: principal-agent, incomplete and symmetric information, learning, experimentation, optimal stopping rule, informational rents, information control, public ignorance

Suggested Citation

Brocas, Isabelle and Carrillo, Juan D., A Theory of Influence: The Strategic Value of Public Ignorance (January 2005). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=660401 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.660401

Isabelle Brocas (Contact Author)

University of Southern California - Department of Economics ( email )

3022 S. Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States
213-740-8842 (Phone)
213-740-8543 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www-rcf.usc.edu/~brocas/

Juan D. Carrillo

University of Southern California - Department of Economics ( email )

3022 S. Vermont Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States
213-740-3526 (Phone)
213-740-8543 (Fax)

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

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