Theoretical Economics, Volume 8, Number 3 (September 2013)

Theoretical Economics 8 (2013), 751–774

Specialization and partisanship in committee search

Benny Moldovanu, Xianwen Shi


A committee decides by unanimity whether to accept the current alternative, or to continue costly search. Each alternative is described by a vector of distinct attributes, and each committee member can privately assess the quality of one attribute (her "specialty"). Preferences are heterogeneous and interdependent: each specialist values all attributes, but puts a higher weight on her specialty (partisanship). We study how acceptance standards and members' welfare vary with the amount of conflict within the committee. We also compare decisions made by committees consisting of specialized experts to decisions made by committees of generalists who can each assess all information available. The acceptance standard decreases (increases) in the degree of conflict when information is public (private). In both cases welfare decreases in the level of conflict. Finally, we identify situations where specialized committee decisions yield Pareto improvements over specialized, one-person decisions and over committee decisions made by generalists.

Keywords: Committee search, asymmetric information, interdependent values, specialization, partisanship

JEL classification: D82, D83, C72

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