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Restoring Damaged Trust with Promises, Atonement and Apology

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Author Info

  • Eric Schniter

    ()
    (Economic Science Institute, Chapman University)

  • Roman M. Sheremeta

    (Argyros School of Business and Economics, Chapman University)

  • Daniel Sznycer

    (Center for Evolutionary Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara)

Abstract

In an experiment using two consecutive trust games, we study how “cheap” signals such as promises and messages are used to restore damaged trust and encourage new trust where it did not previously exist. In these games, trustees made non-binding promises of investment-contingent returns, then investors decided whether to invest, and finally trustees decided how much to return. After an unexpected second game was announced, but before it commenced, trustees could send a one-way message. This naturalistic quasi-experimental design allowed us to observe the endogenous emergence of trust-relevant behaviors and focus on naturally occurring remedial strategies used by promise-breakers and distrusted trustees, their effects on investors, and subsequent outcomes. In the first game 16.6% of trustees were distrusted and 18.8% of trusted trustees broke promises. Trustees distrusted in the first game used promises closer to equal splits and messaging to encourage trust in the second game. To restore damaged trust, promise-breakers used larger new promises (signals of intended atonement) and messaging (usually with apology). On average, investments in each game paid off for investors and trustees, suggesting that cheap signals foster profitable trust-based exchanges in these economic games.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Chapman University, Economic Science Institute in its series Working Papers with number 11-18.

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Length: 46 pages
Date of creation: 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:chu:wpaper:11-18

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Related research

Keywords: promise; atonement; apology; cheap talk; cheap signals; remedial strategies; trust game; reciprocity; experiments;

This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

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  1. Bracht, Juergen & Feltovich, Nick, 2009. "Whatever you say, your reputation precedes you: Observation and cheap talk in the trust game," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(9-10), pages 1036-1044, October.
  2. Joseph Farrell & Matthew Rabin, 1996. "Cheap Talk," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(3), pages 103-118, Summer.
  3. John Duffy & Nick Feltovich, 2006. "Words, Deeds, and Lies: Strategic Behaviour in Games with Multiple Signals," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(3), pages 669-688.
  4. Fehrler, Sebastian & Przepiorka, Wojtek, 2013. "Charitable Giving as a Signal of Trustworthiness: Disentangling the Signaling Benefits of Altruistic Acts," IZA Discussion Papers 7148, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Berg Joyce & Dickhaut John & McCabe Kevin, 1995. "Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 122-142, July.
  6. repec:hou:wpaper:2004-01 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. Bohnet, Iris & Frey, Bruno S., 1999. "The sound of silence in prisoner's dilemma and dictator games," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 38(1), pages 43-57, January.
  8. Tore Ellingsen & Magnus Johannesson, 2004. "Promises, Threats and Fairness," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(495), pages 397-420, 04.
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