On optimal rules of persuasion


Abstract
A speaker wishes to persuade a listener to accept a certain request. The conditions under which the request is justified, from the listener’s point of view, depend on the values of two aspects. The values of the aspects are known only to the speaker and the listener can check the value of at most one. A mechanism specifies a set of messages that the speaker can send and a rule that determines the listener’s response, namely, which aspect he checks and whether he accepts or rejects the speaker’s request. We study mechanisms that maximize the probability that the listener accepts the request when it is justified and rejects the request when it is unjustified, given that the speaker maximizes the probability that his request is accepted. We show that a simple optimal mechanism exists and can be found by solving a linear programming problem in which the set of constraints is derived from what we call the L-principle.
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