(Bloomberg Businessweek) — You know that feeling of elation when you win an auction—say, a bidding war for a house—and how it’s immediately followed by that sinking feeling that you overpaid? That’s the winner’s curse. It’s a real thing. Once you stop to think, you realize there’s probably a good reason other people weren’t willing to pay as much as you did. By winning, you just lost.
Understanding the winner’s curse, and how to avoid it, is part of the reason Stanford University economists Robert Wilson and Paul Milgrom won this year’s Nobel Prize in economics—formally called the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel (PDF).
Wilson’s and Milgrom’s work is unusual in that it’s both theoretical and highly practical. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission raised more than $120 billion for taxpayers from 1994 through 2014 by selling off wireless frequencies using an auction