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Let’s talk: How communication affects contract design

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Author Info

  • Charness, Gary
  • Brandts, Jordi
  • Ellman, Matthew

Abstract

We study experimentally how the ability to communicate affects the frequency andeffectiveness of flexible and inflexible contracts in a bilateral trade context where sellers canadjust trade quality after observing a post-contractual cost shock and a discretionary buyertransfer. In the absence of communication, we find that rigid contracts are more frequent andlead to higher earnings for both buyer and seller. By contrast, in the presence of communication,flexible contracts are much more frequent and considerably more productive, both for buyers andsellers. Also, both buyer and seller earn considerably more from flexible with communicationthan rigid without communication. Our results show quite strongly that communication, a normalfeature in contracting, can remove the potential cost of flexibility (disagreements caused byconflicting perceptions). We offer an explanation based on social norms.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara in its series University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series with number qt6z24s6rv.

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Date of creation: 16 Jun 2012
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Handle: RePEc:cdl:ucsbec:qt6z24s6rv

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Related research

Keywords: Social and Behavioral Sciences; experimental; contracts; bilateral trade; cost shock; discretionary buyer transfer;

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References

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  1. Charness, Gary & Dufwenberg, Martin, 2010. "Bare promises: An experiment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 107(2), pages 281-283, May.
  2. Charness, Gary & Rabin, Matthew, 2001. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt4qz9k8vg, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  3. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 2006. "Contracts as Reference Points," NBER Working Papers 12706, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Ernst Fehr & Oliver Hart & Christian Zehnder, 2011. "How do informal agreements and renegotiation shape contractual reference points?," ECON - Working Papers 043, Department of Economics - University of Zurich.
  5. Cooper, Russell, et al, 1990. "Selection Criteria in Coordination Games: Some Experimental Results," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(1), pages 218-33, March.
  6. Fehr, Ernst & Hart, Oliver & Zehnder, Christian, 2008. "Contracts as Reference Points: Experimental Evidence," IZA Discussion Papers 3889, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. Charness, Gary & Oprea, Ryan & Friedman, Dan, 2012. "Continuous Time and Communication in a Public-goods Experiment," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt5404914p, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  8. Matthew Ellman & Paul Pezanis-Christou, 2007. "Organisational structure, communication and group ethics," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 682.07, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
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Cited by:
  1. Andrey Fradkin, 2012. "Do Online Marketplaces Become More Efficient Over Time?," Working Papers 12-24, NET Institute.
  2. Jordi Brandts & Valeska Groener & Christina Rott, 2012. "The impact of advice on women's and men's selection into competition," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 912.12, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
  3. Jordi Brandts & Valeska Groenert & Christina Rott, 2012. "The Impact of Advice on Women's and Men's Selection into Competition," Working Papers 663, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.

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