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Screening, Signaling and Voluntary Disclosure. Screening and Signaling. Definitions: Screening- An attempt by an uninformed party to sort individuals according to their characteristics.

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screening and signaling
Screening and Signaling
  • Definitions:

Screening- An attempt by an uninformed party to sort individuals according to their characteristics.

Signaling- An attempt by an informed party to send an observable indicator of his or her hidden characteristics to an uniformed party.

examples of screening
Examples of Screening
  • Screening to enable price discrimination (coupons, rebates, outlet malls,…)
  • Screening to sort different types of workers.
  • Choice of deductibles associated with different types of insurance.
  • Obtaining a physical to obtain a favorable life insurance policy.
examples of signaling
Examples of Signaling
  • Obtaining an advanced degree such as an MBA or PhD.
  • Seller offering a warranty.
  • Labor contract negotiations/ Negotiating a compensation package.
example 1 signaling with a warranty
Example 1: Signaling with a Warranty
  • Suppose there are sellers of lemons and sellers of peaches and buyers cannot tell a lemon from a peach (like the adverse selection example we did). Suppose a seller can obtain a price of $2,000 if he has a lemon and the buyer knows it’s a lemon and a price of $3,000 if he has a peach and the buyer knows it’s a peach. Finally, assume all sellers can credibly offer a warranty.
example 1 signaling with a warranty1
Example 1: Signaling with a Warranty
  • Let the probability of a lemon breaking down be .70 and the probability of a peach breaking down be .10. Suppose the warranty states that if the car breaks down, the seller will pay the buyer $1,500 to repair the car.
example 1 signaling with a warranty2
Example 1: Signaling with a Warranty
  • Will the seller with a lemon offer the warranty?

Marginal Benefit (MB) from offering the warranty is $1,000.

Marginal Cost (MC) from offering the warranty is .7*1500=$1,050.

  • Will the seller with a peach offer the warranty?

Marginal Benefit (MB) from offering the warranty is $1,000.

Marginal Cost (MC) from offering the warranty is .1*1500=$150.

MBMC for seller with peach. Therefore, seller with peach can credibly signal to buyer that the car is a peach by offering the above warranty.

example 2 signaling in national football league contract negotiations
Example 2: Signaling in National Football League Contract Negotiations


  • Representative Contract


signaling in nfl negotiations
Signaling in NFL Negotiations

Review of Economic and Statistics (2003)

Michael Conlin and Patrick Emerson

voluntary disclosure

Voluntary Disclosure

Not Covered in Textbook

You’re on a job interview and the interviewer knows what the distribution of GPAs are for MBA students at MSU:

Expected/Average grade for everyone:

.2*2.5+.3*3.0+.3*3.5+.2*4.0 = 3.25

Geoff Humphrys at the Lear Center advises anyone who has a 3.5 GPA or higher to volunteer their GPA. Is this a stable outcome?

Students remaining

Original share

  • What does the potential employer believe about the people who stay quiet?
  • They know their GPA is below a 3.5, but how far below?
  • Guess the average grade of everyone who didn’t get at least a 3.5.
  • What is that?





.4*2.5 + .6*3.0 = 2.8

People with 3.0s will reveal themselves because they

don’t want employer to assume they have a 2.8

voluntary disclosure1
Voluntary disclosure
  • Full disclosure principle - if some individuals stand to benefits by revealing a favorable trait, others will be forced to disclose their less favorable values.
  • If disclosure is costless, only the lowest types will not reveal their quality
voluntary disclosure and signaling
Voluntary Disclosure and Signaling
  • Voluntary Disclosure differs from Signaling because we are assuming that the cost of lying (i.e., saying you have a GPA of 4.0 when you have a GPA of 3.5) is so large than no one does it. Therefore, the decision is to either reveal your private information truthfully or don’t reveal.
voluntary disclosure2
Voluntary Disclosure
  • If it is true that only the lowest types don’t reveal and that consumers/employers (the uninformed party) can infer they are the lowest type, then government should not have to intervene in the market – for example, they should not require firms producing salad dressings to report the fat content and they should not require restaurants to report their hygiene score.
fat content in salad dressing
Fat content in Salad Dressing

The Impact of Mandatory Disclosure Laws On Product Choice

Alan Mathios

hygiene scores for la restaurants
Hygiene Scores for LA Restaurants

The Effect of Information on Product Quality

By Phil Leslie and Ginger Jin

shipping charges in online auction platforms
Shipping Charges in Online Auction Platforms

Shrouded Attributes and Information Suppression:

Evidence from the Field

(e-Bay and on-line auction platforms in Taiwan and Ireland)

By Jennifer Brown, Tanjim Hossain and John Morgan (QJE 2010)

film studios withholding movies from critics
Film Studios Withholding Movies from Critics

To Review or Not to Review? Limited Strategic Thinking at the Movie Box Office

By Alexander Brown, Colin Camerer and Dan Lovallo (AEJ: Micro 2012)

inference of sat score in college admissions
Inference of SAT score in College Admissions

By Michael Conlin and Stacy Dickert-Conlin

why would colleges go to optional sat policy
Why would Colleges go to Optional SAT Policy?
  • Attract a different type of student (those that don’t test well but do well in college)
  • Maybe more diverse?
  • Improve ratings
  • Average SAT score included in U.S. News and World Report
  • If don’t have SAT scores for lowest score students, reported average increases.
strategic behavior of colleges
Strategic Behavior of Colleges

By Michael Conlin, Stacy Dickert-Conlin and Gabrielle Chapman

Journal of Economic Behavior and Organizations (2013)