DP16364 On the Optimal Scheduling of Attention

Author(s): Kfir Eliaz, Daniel Fershtman, Alexander Frug
Publication Date: July 2021
Keyword(s): Allocation of attention, multi-armed bandits, Multitasking, Scheduling, Task juggling, Time management
JEL(s):
Programme Areas: Industrial Organization
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=16364

We consider a decision-maker sequentially choosing which task to attend to when payoffs depend on both the chosen and unchosen tasks. We show that when tasks are substitutes (complements) such that the flow payoffs are a sum (product) of the tasks' outputs, the optimal policy is an index policy, generalizing the independence of irrelevant alternatives (IIA) property known in the classic multi-armed bandit problem. We illustrate the usefulness of our model through several applications, including repeated bargaining, dynamic occupational choice, on-the-job training, R\&D, and dynamic supervision.