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Costless pre-play communication has been shown to effectively facilitate within-group coordination. However, in competitive coordination games, such as rent-seeking contests, better within-group coordination leads to more aggressive competition and lower efficiency. We report an experiment in which two groups compete in a weakest-link contest by expending costly efforts. We find that allowing within-group communication makes groups compete more aggressively. When only one group can communicate, the communicating group coordinates better and expends higher efforts than the non-communicating group. However, the communicating group earns payoffs that are not different from the baseline contest without any communication, while the non-communicating group earns lower payoffs than in this baseline contest. Allowing within-group communication in both groups leads to even more aggressive competition and the lowest payoffs to both groups. Despite such a “harmful” effect of communication, groups vote to endogenously open communication channels even though this leads to lower payoffs and efficiency.


Working Paper 15-01



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