Ala Avoyan (ალა ავოიანი)

I am an Assistant Professor of Economics at Indiana University.

My research is in experimental and behavioral economics as well as micro theory. You can find my CV here .

Department of Economics
243 Wylie Hall

100 S Woodlawn Ave
Bloomington, IN 47405


Attention In Games: An Experimental Study

(with Andrew Schotter)
European Economic Review 124, (2020).

A common assumption in game theory is that players concentrate on one game at a time. However, in everyday life, we play many games and make many decisions at the same time, and, thus, we have to decide how best to divide our limited attention across these settings. In this paper we ask how players solve this attention-allocation problem and how their decision affects the way players behave in any given game when that game is viewed in isolation. We find that the attention of players is attracted to particular features of the games they play: the maximum payoff in the game, the minimum payoff, the degree of inequality in the game’s payoff, whether the game has zero payoffs, the complexity of the game, and the type of game being played. Moreover, how much attention a subject gives to a particular game depends on the other game that he or she is simultaneously attending to.

Planned vs. Actual Attention

(with Mauricio Ribeiro, Andrew Schotter, Elizabeth R. Schotter, Mehrdad Vaziri, Minghao Zou)
Management Science, (2023).

People often need to plan how to allocate their attention across different tasks. In this paper, we run two experiments to study a stylized version of this attention allocation problem between strategic tasks. More specifically, we present subjects with pairs of 2x2 games, and, for each pair, we give them 10 seconds to decide how they would split a fixed time budget between the two games. Then subjects play both games without time constraints, and we use eye-tracking to estimate the fraction of time they spend on each game. We find that subjects’ planned and actual attention allocation differ and identify the determinants of this mismatch. Further, we argue misallocations can be relevant in games where a player’s strategy choice is sensitive to the time taken to reach a decision.

Paying For Inattention

(with Giorgia Romagnoli)
Economics Letters, (2023)

We augment the standard rational inattention model by allowing the decision maker to alter the distribution of payoffs. The model captures real-life circumstances in which decision makers choose their incentives to pay attention, for instance, through the choice of insurance (full-coverage contracts reduce the incentives to pay attention compared to partial coverage). This new framework, specifically the ability to observe the decision maker’s choice of payoff redistribution, allows us to elicit the decision maker’s targeted attention level. This is a novel method of eliciting the object of interest— attention—typically obtained through performance (i.e., repetitions) in the literature. Furthermore, by manipulating the cost of payoff redistribution, the framework allows us to examine rational inattention models without making parametric assumptions on the cost of attention function. With a laboratory experiment, we validate novel comparative static predictions of our model. The subjects respond to the link between payoff redistribution decisions and attention in accordance to the theory.

A Road to Efficiency Through Communication and Commitment

(with João Ramos)
American Economic Review, 113(9), (2023).

We experimentally examine the efficacy of a novel pre-play institution introduced by Calcagno et al. (2014) in a well-known coordination game—the minimum-effort game—in which coordination failures are a robust and persistent phenomenon. This new institution allows agents to communicate while incrementally committing to their words, leading to a sharp theoretical prediction: the efficient outcome is uniquely selected in the extended coordination game. Commitment-enhanced communication significantly increases subjects’ payoffs, and achieves efficiency levels considerably higher than non-binding communication. We document that commitment alters communication, and that subjects behave in a forward-thinking and myopically suboptimal manner at the beginning of their interaction and then best respond as the deadline looms.

Working Papers

Behavioral Market Design For Online Gaming Platforms

(with Robizon Khubulashvili and Giorgi Mekerishvili)
(Management Science, Revise and Resubmit)

In this paper, we investigate market design for online gaming platforms. We ask what motivates people to continue participation—success or failure? Using data from an online chess platform, we find strong evidence of heterogeneous history-dependent stopping behavior. We identify two behavioral types of people: those who are more likely to stop playing after a loss and those who are more likely to stop playing after a win. We propose a behavioral dynamic choice model in which the utility from playing another game is directly affected by the previous game’s outcome. We estimate this time non-separable preference model and conduct counterfactual analyses to study alternative market designs. A matching algorithm designed to leverage stopping behavior can substantially alter the length of play.

Communication In Global Games: Theory and Experiment

Communication is introduced as a strategic choice in a regime change coordination game with incomplete information. There exists a communication equilibrium, in which agents act more aggressively and take on the regime more often than they would without communicating. The effects of communication are two-fold: (i) it increases the rate of coordinated attacks, and (ii) reduces futile attempts on the regime, thus reducing wasted cost. The experimental results demonstrate that communication reduces miscoordination; however, the subjects are not as strategic with their messages as theory predicts, and therefore, they fail to increase their payoffs. This result demonstrates how the effects of communication differ in an environment with incomplete information, contrasting with the overwhelming experimental evidence indicating communication benefits in coordination games with complete information.

Teams, Time Pressure, and Coordination

(with Haoran He and Kelin Lu)

Team decision-making is often conducted under looming deadlines, where time constraints affect team communication and, consequently, team decisions. This study examines teams' ability to communicate and reach an agreement under time pressure in a coordination game and consequent performance. We find that teams are significantly better at coordination compared to individuals in the absence of time constraints. Teams under time pressure still target more efficient equilibria than individuals if they reach an agreement. However, disagreements are frequent, and teams no longer exhibit less miscoordination than individuals. Consequently, time pressure near entirely wipes out the gains from teams making decisions instead of individuals. Finally, we investigate the underlying mechanisms driving the detrimental effect of time pressure on performance by analyzing communication content and applying the experience-weighted attraction learning model.