Friday, January 15, 2021

Bargaining with Macaques: the alternatives to agreement determine the terms of agreement

 At the Uluwatu temple in Bali, monkeys steal high value items from tourists, and then ransom the items back for food.  Higher valued items are returned only after higher payouts.  From MarginalRevolution.com:

After spending more than 273 days filming interactions between the animals and temple visitors, researchers found that the macaques would demand better rewards – such as more food – for higher-valued items [like mobile phones, wallets and prescription glasses].

Bargaining between a monkey robber, tourist and a temple staff member quite often lasted several minutes. The longest wait before an item was returned was 25 minutes, including 17 minutes of negotiation. For lower-valued items, the monkeys were more likely to conclude successful bartering sessions by accepting a lesser reward.

The story illustrates lessons from Chapter 17:  the alternative to agreement determine the terms of agreement (more valuable items result in higher negotiated prices); and higher-value items require more bargaining time as the parties invest more time in determining the gains from trade (the difference between the parties' outside alternatives).

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