Two-sided search with experts

Yinon Nahum, David Sarne, Sanmay Das, Onn Shehory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


In this paper we study distributed agent matching in environments characterized by uncertain signals, costly exploration, and the presence of an information broker. Each agent receives information about the potential value of matching with others. This information signal may, however, be noisy, and the agent incurs some cost in receiving it. If all candidate agents agree to the matching the team is formed and each agent receives the true unknown utility of the matching, and leaves the market. We consider the effect of the presence of information brokers, or experts, on the outcomes of such matching processes. Experts can, upon payment of either a fee or a commission, perform the service of disambiguating noisy signals and revealing the true value of a match to any agent. We analyze equilibrium behavior given the fee set by a monopolist expert and use this analysis to derive the revenue maximizing strategy for the expert as the first mover in a Stackelberg game. Interestingly, we find that better information can hurt: the presence of the expert, even if the use of her services is optional, can degrade both individual agents’ utilities and overall social welfare. While in one-sided search the presence of the expert can only help, in two-sided (and general $$k$$k-sided) search the externality imposed by the fact that others are consulting the expert can lead to a situation where the equilibrium outcome is that everyone consults the expert, even though all agents would be better off if the expert were not present. As an antidote, we show how market designers can enhance welfare by compensating the expert to change the price at which she offers her services.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)364-401
Number of pages38
JournalAutonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems
Issue number3
StatePublished - 10 Apr 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, The Author(s).


This work is supported in part by a US-Israel BSF Grant (#2008-404) to Das and Sarne. Sarne acknowledges additional support from ISF Grant 1083/13. Das acknowledges additional support from an NSF CAREER Award (IIS-1414452). A preliminary version of this work appears in the Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Electronic Commerce (EC 2012).

FundersFunder number
US-Israel BSF2008-404
National Science FoundationIIS-1414452
Israel Science Foundation


    • Distributed matching
    • Information brokers
    • Multi-agent systems


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