Recent years have witnessed a growing interest in analyzing a variety of socio-economic phenomena using methods from statistical and nonlinear physics. We study a class of complex systems arising from economics, the lowest unique bid auction (LUBA) systems, which is a recently emerged class of online auction game systems. Through analyzing large, empirical data sets of LUBA, we identify a general feature of the bid price distribution: an inverted J-shaped function with exponential decay in the large bid price region. To account for the distribution, we propose a multi-agent model in which each agent bids stochastically in the field of winner's attractiveness, and develop a theoretical framework to obtain analytic solutions of the model based on mean field analysis. The theory produces bid-price distributions that are in excellent agreement with those from the real data. Our model and theory capture the essential features of human behaviors in the competitive environment as exemplified by LUBA, and may provide significant quantitative insights into complex socio-economic phenomena.
We are grateful to Ms Yinan Zhao for providing the data and to Yuzhong Chen and Cancan Zhou for discussions and suggestions. This work was supported by ARO under Grant No. W911NF-14-1-0504 and by NSFC under Grants Nos. 11275003 and 61174165. The visit of QC to Arizona State University was partially sponsored by the State Scholarship Fund of China.