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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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References

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  1. Carsten Schmidt & Matthias Sutter & Werner Güth, 2005. "Bargaining Outside the Lab - A Newspaper Experiment of a Three-Person Ultimatum Game," Papers on Strategic Interaction 2006-04, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Strategic Interaction Group.
  2. 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.
  3. Agell, Jonas & Lundborg, Per, 1995. " Theories of Pay and Unemployment: Survey Evidence from Swedish Manufacturing Firms," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 97(2), pages 295-307, June.
  4. 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.
  5. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gachter & Georg Kirchsteiger, 2001. "Reciprocity as a Contract Enforcement Device," Levine's Working Paper Archive 563824000000000143, David K. Levine.
  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. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Shirley, Mary M & Xu, Lixin Colin, 1998. "Information, Incentives, and Commitment: An Empirical Analysis of Contracts between Government and State Enterprises," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 14(2), pages 358-78, October.
  10. Akerlof, George A & Yellen, Janet L, 1988. "Fairness and Unemployment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(2), pages 44-49, May.
  11. 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.
  12. Austen-Smith, David, 1998. "Allocating Access for Information and Contributions," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 14(2), pages 277-303, October.
  13. Sanford J Grossman & Oliver D Hart, 2001. "An Analysis of the Principal-Agent Problem," Levine's Working Paper Archive 391749000000000339, David K. Levine.
  14. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
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Cited by:
  1. Roman M. Sheremeta & Jingjing Zhang, 2013. "Three-Player Trust Game with Insider Communication," Working Papers 13-03, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
  2. Rigdon, Mary, 2005. "Trust and reciprocity in incentive contracting," MPRA Paper 2007, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 15 May 2006.
  3. Andres Reeson & John Tisdell, 2007. "Markets, Motivations And Public Goods: Experimental Investigations On The Impact Of Institutions," Monash Economics Working Papers 22-07, Monash University, Department of Economics.
  4. 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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