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Gift Exchange and Reciprocity in Competitive Experimental Markets

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Author Info

  • Fehr, Ernst

    (Institute for Empirical Research in Economics, University of Z├╝rich)

  • Kirchsteiger, Georg

    (Department of Economics, University of Vienna)

  • Riedl, Arno

    (Department of Economics, Institute for Advanced Studies, Vienna)

Abstract

One of the outstanding results of three decades of laboratory market research is that under rather weak conditions prices and quantities in competitive experimental markets converge to the competitive equilibrium. Yet, the design of these experiments ruled out gift exchange or reciprocity motives, that is, subjects could not reciprocate for a gift. This paper reports the results of experiments which do not rule out reciprocal interactions between buyers and sellers. Sellers have the opportunity to choose quality levels which are above the levels enforceable by buyers. In principle they can, therefore, reward buyers who offer them high prices. Yet, such reciprocating behaviour lowers sellers' monetary payoff and is, hence, not subgame perfect. The data reveal that a majority of sellers behave reciprocally and that this behaviour is anticipated by buyers. As a result, buyers are willing to pay prices which are substantially above sellers' reservation prices. These results indicate that reciprocity motives may indeed be capable of driving a competitive experimental market permanently away from the competitive outcome. The data, therefore, support the gift exchange approach to the explanation of involuntary unemployment.

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File URL: http://www.ihs.ac.at/publications/eco/es-14.pdf
File Function: First version, 1995
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for Advanced Studies in its series Economics Series with number 14.

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Length: 24 pages
Date of creation: Sep 1995
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ihs:ihsesp:14

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Keywords: Gift Exchange; Reciprocity; Experiments;

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  1. Alvin E. Roth & V. Prasnikar & M. Okuno-Fujiwara & S. Zamir, 1998. "Bargaining and market behavior in Jerusalem, Liubljana, Pittsburgh and Tokyo: an experimental study," Levine's Working Paper Archive 344, David K. Levine.
  2. Georg Kirchsteiger & Ernst Fehr & Arno Riedl, 1996. "Involuntary unemployment and non-compensating wage differentials in an experimental labour market," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/5917, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  3. Fehr, Ernst & Kirchsteiger, Georg, 1994. "Insider Power, Wage Discrimination and Fairness," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 571-83, May.
  4. G. Bolton, 2010. "A comparative model of bargaining: theory and evidence," Levine's Working Paper Archive 263, David K. Levine.
  5. Fehr, Ernst, et al, 1998. "When Social Norms Overpower Competition: Gift Exchange in Experimental Labor Markets," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 16(2), pages 324-51, April.
  6. Kachelmeier, Steven J. & Shehata, Mohamed, 1992. "Culture and competition: A laboratory market comparison between China and the West," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 145-168, October.
  7. 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.
  8. Georg Kirchsteiger & Ernst Fehr & Arno Riedl, 1993. "Does Fairness Prevent Market Clearing? An Experimental Investigation," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/5927, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  9. Gary E Bolton & Rami Zuwick, 2010. "Anonymity versus punishments in ultimatum bargaining," Levine's Working Paper Archive 826, David K. Levine.
  10. Georg Kirchsteiger, 1994. "The role of envy in ultimatum games," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/5925, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  11. Smith, Vernon L, 1982. "Microeconomic Systems as an Experimental Science," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(5), pages 923-55, December.
  12. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard, 1986. "Fairness as a Constraint on Profit Seeking: Entitlements in the Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 728-41, September.
  13. Akerlof, George A, 1982. "Labor Contracts as Partial Gift Exchange," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 97(4), pages 543-69, November.
  14. Berg Joyce & Dickhaut John & McCabe Kevin, 1995. "Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 122-142, July.
  15. Smith, Vernon L, 1976. "Experimental Economics: Induced Value Theory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 66(2), pages 274-79, May.
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  18. repec:att:wimass:9323 is not listed on IDEAS
  19. Plott, Charles R. & Smith, Vernon L., . "An Experimental Examination of Two Exchange Institutions," Working Papers 83, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  20. Ochs, Jack & Roth, Alvin E, 1989. "An Experimental Study of Sequential Bargaining," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(3), pages 355-84, June.
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