Tractable (simple) contests

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Much of the work on multi-agent contests is focused on determining the equilibrium behavior of contestants. This capability is essential for the principal for choosing the optimal parameters for the contest (e.g. prize amount). As it turns out, many contests exhibit not one, but many possible equilibria, hence precluding contest design optimization and contestants' behavior prediction. In this paper we examine a variation of the classic contest that alleviates this problem by having contestants make the decisions sequentially rather than in parallel. We study this model in the setting of a simple contest, wherein contestants only choose whether or not to participate, while their performance level is exogenously set. We show that by switching to the revised mechanism the principal can not only force her most desired pure-strategies based equilibrium to emerge, but also, at times, end up with an equilibrium offering a greater expected profit. Further, we show that in the modified contest the optimal prize can be effectively computed. The theoretical analysis is complemented by comprehensive experiments with people over Amazon Mechanical Turk. Here, we find that the modified mechanism offers great benefit for the principal, both in terms of an increased over-participation in the contest (compared to theoretical expectations) and increased average profit.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 27th International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, IJCAI 2018
EditorsJerome Lang
PublisherInternational Joint Conferences on Artificial Intelligence
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9780999241127
StatePublished - 2018
Event27th International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, IJCAI 2018 - Stockholm, Sweden
Duration: 13 Jul 201819 Jul 2018

Publication series

NameIJCAI International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence
ISSN (Print)1045-0823


Conference27th International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, IJCAI 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 International Joint Conferences on Artificial Intelligence. All right reserved.


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