January 15, 2015, by Suzanne

Co-ordination Workshop Report by Emily Wyman

Hands Clasped Together

When individuals, groups, or even nations desire to act together to achieve something that none can achieve alone, they must often negotiate between multiple ways of accomplishing this.  Typically, this will require some form of shared knowledge of the situation, a degree of assurance between parties, or some complex reasoning about what others are likely to do.  This is the essence of a formal ‘coordination problem.’

Thomas Schelling’s classic introduction of coordination problems into economics showed that they are pervasive in human interaction, and offered preliminary ideas on how agents resolve them.   David Lewis then famously discerned that the various solutions available to coordinators represent distinct social conventions.  In fact, theoretical and experimental work has charted many of the factors that affect coordination success.  But a plethora of questions remain, particularly in relation to the mechanisms by which coordinated decisions and actions get off the ground.

In December 2014, the Network for Integrated Behavioural Science invited a group of specialist economists and psychologists from within the Network for a day-workshop on coordination.  Top researchers from the Universities of Warwick, East Anglia, Leicester and Nottingham attended to present new experimental findings, discuss unresolved theoretical issues in the field, and to brainstorm ideas for novel experimental designs.

A series of rich, energetic, round-table discussions emerged on issues at the forefront of coordination research.  Prominent themes included the specific properties of ‘focal points’ that render them coordination solutions, different psychological mechanisms employed for coordinating such as ‘team reasoning’, the role and dynamics of communication in coordination, and potential field applications of coordination research.  Foundational theories were debated, new findings were discussed, and innovative ideas for theory development and empirical work materialised, along with novel methodologies for assessing how people successfully coordinate.

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