Discussion paper

DP16364 On the Optimal Scheduling of Attention

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.


Eliaz, K, D Fershtman and A Frug (2021), ‘DP16364 On the Optimal Scheduling of Attention‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 16364. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp16364