Competing for Attention: Is the Showiest also the Best?
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We introduce attention games. Alternatives ranked by quality (producers, politicians, sexual partners...) desire to be chosen and compete for the imperfect attention of a chooser by investing in their own salience. We prove that if alternatives can control the attention they get, then ”the showiest is the best”: the equilibrium ordering of salience (weakly) reproduces the quality ranking and the best alternative is the one that gets picked most often. This result also holds under more general conditions. However, if those conditions fail, then even the worst alternative can be picked most often.