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The tug-of-war is a multi-battle contest often used to describe extended interactions in economics, operations management, political science, and other disciplines. While there has been some theoretical work, to the best of our knowledge, this paper provides the first experimental study of the tug-of-war. The results show notable deviations of behavior from theory derived under standard assumptions. In the first battle of the tug-of-war, subjects often bid less, while in the follow-up battles, they bid more than predicted. Also, contrary to the prediction, bids tend to increase in the duration of the tug-of-war. Finally, extending the margin necessary to win the tug-of-war causes a greater reduction in bidding than either a decrease in the prize or greater impatience despite all three having the same predicted effect. These findings have implications both for theorists and practitioners.


ESI Working Paper 18-21



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