Imitation and Learning

Carlos Alós-Ferrer, Karl H. Schlag

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


As a learning rule in the context of bounded rationality, imitation is both common and plausible. Its strength is that it relies on minimal information about the environment. In its general form, imitation is nevertheless quite complex since the agent has to specify whom, when and with which propensity to imitate. Some forms of imitation perform well while others do not. This chapter demonstrates, for a variety of different environments, which forms of imitation can be individually or socially desirable. One basic intuition is that when agents within a population face similar choices under uncertainty, imitation can lead to a form of information aggregation. Play within the population serves as a memory of how the different actions performed on average. Special circumstances arise in strategic environments where one may be learning from competing agents. Long-run predictions of imitative behavior are presented in pure decision problems and strategic settings and related to benchmarks such as evolutionary stability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Handbook of Rational and Social Choice
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191710506
ISBN (Print)9780199290420
StatePublished - May 1 2009


  • Competing agents
  • Game theory
  • Imitation
  • Imitative behavior
  • Learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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