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Many economic, political and social environments can be described as contests in which agents exert costly effort while competing over the distribution of a scarce resource. These environments have been studied using Tullock contests, all-pay auctions and rank-order tournaments. This survey provides a comprehensive review of experimental research on these three canonical contests. First, we review studies investigating the basic structure of contests, including the number of players and prizes, spillovers and externalities, heterogeneity, risk and incomplete information. Second, we discuss dynamic contests and multi-battle contests. Then we review studies examining sabotage, feedback, bias, collusion, alliances, group contests and gender, as well as field experiments. Finally, we discuss applications of contests and suggest directions for future research.


This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Experimental Economics, to be assigned to a future volume, in 2014 following peer review. The final publication is available at Springer via DOI: 10.1007/s10683-014-9421-0.

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