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Incentive Contracts versus Trust in Three-Person Ultimatum Games - An Experimental Study

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  • Susanne Büchner
  • Luis Gonzalez
  • Werner Güth
  • M. Vittoria Levati

Abstract

Whether incentive contracts perform better than trust in terms of productive efficiency is usually explored by principal-agent experiments (most involving only one agent). We investigate this issue in the context of a three-person ultimatum experiment, which is simpler and more neutrally framed than traditional principal-agent designs. Contrary to the game theoretic prediction, we find that (mutual) trust is as good as incentive contracts in inducing costly actions by employees. Moreover, we observe an interesting order effect when switching from one regime to the other. This could be important when considering institutional change since (according to our data) early behavioral patterns may be irreversible.

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Paper provided by Max Planck Institute of Economics, Strategic Interaction Group in its series Papers on Strategic Interaction with number 2002-20.

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Handle: RePEc:esi:discus:2002-20

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Keywords: Ultimatum Game; Incentives; Trust; Fairness; Greasing;

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  1. Ross, Stephen A, 1973. "The Economic Theory of Agency: The Principal's Problem," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 63(2), pages 134-39, May.
  2. Akerlof, George A & Yellen, Janet L, 1988. "Fairness and Unemployment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(2), pages 44-49, May.
  3. Grossman, Sanford J & Hart, Oliver D, 1983. "An Analysis of the Principal-Agent Problem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(1), pages 7-45, January.
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  6. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gachter & Georg Kirchsteiger, 1997. "Reciprocity as a Contract Enforcement Device: Experimental Evidence," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(4), pages 833-860, July.
  7. Werner Guth & Carsten Schmidt & Matthias Sutter, 2002. "Bargaining outside the lab - a newspaper experiment of a three person-ultimatum game," Artefactual Field Experiments 00050, The Field Experiments Website.
  8. Werner Guth & Carsten Schmidt & Matthias Sutter, 2003. "Fairness in the mail and opportunism in the internet - a newspaper experiment on ultimatum bargaining," Artefactual Field Experiments 00051, The Field Experiments Website.
  9. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gachter & Georg Kirchsteiger, 2001. "Reciprocity as a Contract Enforcement Device," Levine's Working Paper Archive 563824000000000143, David K. Levine.
  10. Luis Gonzalez & Werner Güth & Maria Vittoria Levati, . "Speeding up Bureaucrats by Greasing Them - An Experimental Study -," Papers on Strategic Interaction 2002-05, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Strategic Interaction Group.
  11. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  12. Steven Shavell, 1979. "Risk Sharing and Incentives in the Principal and Agent Relationship," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 10(1), pages 55-73, Spring.
  13. Agell, J. & Lundborg, P., 1992. "Theories of Pay and Unemployment: Survey Evidence from Swedish Manufacturing Firms," Papers 1993-8, Uppsala - Working Paper Series.
  14. Bewley, Truman F, 1995. "A Depressed Labor Market as Explained by Participants," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(2), pages 250-54, May.
  15. Akerlof, George A & Yellen, Janet L, 1990. "The Fair Wage-Effort Hypothesis and Unemployment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(2), pages 255-83, May.
  16. Werner Güth & Manfred Königstein & Judit Kovács & Enikõ Zala-Mezõ, 2001. "Fairness Within Firms: The Case Of One Principal And Multiple Agents," Schmalenbach Business Review (sbr), LMU Munich School of Management, vol. 53(2), pages 82-101, April.
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Cited by:
  1. Rietz, Thomas & Sheremeta, Roman & Shields, Timothy & Smith, Vernon, 2013. "Transparency, Efficiency and the Distribution of Economic Welfare in Pass-Through Investment Trust Games," MPRA Paper 53594, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. Andres Reeson & John Tisdell, 2007. "Markets, Motivations And Public Goods: Experimental Investigations On The Impact Of Institutions," Development Research Unit Working Paper Series 22-07, Monash University, Department of Economics.
  3. Sheremeta, Roman & Zhang, Jingjing, 2013. "Three-Player Trust Game with Insider Communication," MPRA Paper 43533, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Rigdon, Mary, 2005. "Trust and reciprocity in incentive contracting," MPRA Paper 2007, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 15 May 2006.
  5. Reeson, Andrew F. & Tisdell, John G., 2008. "Institutions, motivations and public goods: An experimental test of motivational crowding," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 273-281, October.

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