Queuing Approaches to Principal-Agent Communication under Information Overload

Aseem Sharma, Krishna Jagannathan, Lav R. Varshney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the information overload regime, human communication tasks such as responding to email are well-modeled as priority queues, where priority is determined by a mix of intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation corresponding to the task's importance to the sender. We view priority queuing from a principal-agent perspective, and characterize the effect of priority-misalignment and information asymmetry between task senders and task receivers in both single-agent and multi-agent settings. In the single-agent setting, we find that discipline can override misalignment. Although variation in human interests leads to performance loss in the single-agent setting, the same variability is useful to the principal with optimal routing of tasks, if the principal has suitable information about agents' priorities. Our approach starts to quantitatively address the effect of human dynamics in routine communication tasks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7942125
Pages (from-to)6041-6058
Number of pages18
JournalIEEE Transactions on Information Theory
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2017


  • Information overload
  • Principal-agent problem
  • Queuing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Library and Information Sciences


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