Research Seminars

X-HEC Seminar in Economic Theory "Language Barriers" (with Oliver Board)

Speaker: Andreas Blume
University of Pittsburg

5 May 2011 - HEC Paris, Jouy-en-Josas, Room H030 - From 2:30 pm to 4:00 pm

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Different people use language in different ways. Private information about language competence can be used to reflect the idea that language is imperfectly shared. In optimal equilibria of common interest games there will generally be some benefit from communication with an imperfectly shared language, but the efficiency losses from private information about language competence in excess of those from limited competence itself may be significant. In optimal equilibria of common-interest sender-receiver games, private information about language competence distorts and drives a wedge between the indicative meanings of messages (the decision-relevant information indicated by those messages) and their imperative meanings (the actions induced by those messages). Indicative meanings are distorted because information about decision relevant information becomes confounded with information about the sender's language competence. Imperative meanings of messages become distorted because of the uncertain ability of the receiver to decode them. We show that distortions of meanings persist with higher-order failures of knowledge of language competence. In a richer class of games, where both senders and receivers move at the action stage and where payoffs violate a self-signaling condition, these distortions may result in complete communication failure for any finite-order knowledge of language competence.

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