Discussion paper

DP10340 Sequential Auctions with Capacity Constraints: an Experimental Investigation

We conduct a laboratory experiment where groups of 4 subjects constrained to obtain at most one good each, sequentially bid for 3 goods in first and second price auctions. Subjects learn at the beginning of each auction their valuation for the good and exit the auction once they have obtained one good. We show that, contrary to equilibrium predictions, subjects? bidding behavior is excessively similar across units and across mechanisms at the aggregate level. We provide two (complementary) explanations for these departures. One is bounded rationality. Subjects do not fully comprehend subtle differences between mechanisms. The other is self-selection. Subjects are very heterogeneous and some of them deviate more from equilibrium than others. Since deviations take mostly the form of overbidding, these subjects win the first or second good and exit the auction, leaving those who play closer to theoretical predictions to bid for the third good. Support for this hypothesis comes from the documented higher bidding, lower efficiency and lower profits associated with the first and second unit compared to the third one.


Brocas, I (2015), ‘DP10340 Sequential Auctions with Capacity Constraints: an Experimental Investigation‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 10340. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp10340