Posted by: Gabriele Paolacci | October 7, 2009

p-beauty contest

We arranged seventy-five workers (46.7% women, mean age = 33.7) in 5 groups of 15 to participate to 5 p-beauty contests (p=1/2). Participants were paid $.01 for the mere participation, plus a prize of $.50 if they were the winners of the contest. In case of multiple winners, the prize was split evenly.

The figure below compares our results with those published in Nagel (1995). We obtained higher mean and median, and higher variability. Frequency peaks are similar between the two datasets. Overall, workers’ behavior is consistent with previous experiments (e.g. Burnham et al. 2009); it would be arguably helpful to replicate the experiment with different configurations in terms of payment/prize.

Our data (left) and Nagel’s data (1995; right).

Our dataData in Nagel (1995)


Burnham T., Cesarini D., Lichtenstein P., Johannesson M., Wallace B. (2009). Higher Cognitive Ability is Associated with Lower Entries in a p-Beauty Contest. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 72 (1), 171-175.

Nagel, R. (1995). Unraveling in Guessing Games: An Experimental Study. American Economic Review, 85 (5), 1313-1326.


  1. […] One specific example from this is the p-beauty contest. Details: […]

  2. After I originally commented I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now each time a comment is added I recieve four emails with the exact same comment. There has to be a means you are able to remove me from that service? Cheers!

  3. Unfortunately I don’t think I can help. You following comments on the blog doesn’t appear anywhere on the dashboard of the blog. Cheers

    • Would it be possible to look at the data you analyzed, yours and Nagel’s? I’ve actually been trying for a while to get the original Nagel data with no luck—obviously not talking to the right people.

  4. I don’t have Nagel’s data either (the figure above is simply picked from the original paper), but please email me if you want mine.

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