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Homo Reciprocans: Survey Evidence on Prevalence, Behavior and Success

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  • Dohmen, Thomas

    ()
    (University of Bonn)

  • Falk, Armin

    ()
    (University of Bonn)

  • Huffman, David B.

    ()
    (University of Oxford)

  • Sunde, Uwe

    ()
    (University of Munich)

Abstract

Experimental evidence has convincingly shown the existence of reciprocal inclinations, i.e., a tendency for people to respond in-kind to hostile or kind actions. Little is known, however, about: (i) the prevalence of reciprocity in the population, (ii) individual determinants of reciprocity, (iii) the correlation between positive and negative inclinations within person, and (iv) consequences of reciprocal inclinations for wages, subjective well-being, friendships and other economic and social outcomes. Answering these questions requires moving out of the lab and using a large and representative subject pool, which combines information about subjects’ reciprocal inclinations with extensive socioeconomic background information. In this paper we measure the reciprocal inclinations of 21,000 individuals. We show that most people state reciprocal inclinations, in particular in terms of positive reciprocity. However, there is substantial heterogeneity in the degree of reciprocity, and quite surprisingly, only a weak correlation between positive and negative reciprocity for an individual. In terms of determinants, being female, and increasing age, lead to greater positive and less negatively reciprocal tendencies. Taller people are more positively reciprocal, but height has no impact on negative reciprocity. The asymmetric impact of these determinants provides further indication that positive and negative reciprocity are fundamentally different traits, rather than the outcome of a single underlying tendency. In terms of economic implications, we provide the first evidence using a large representative survey that corroborates an important hypothesis arising from laboratory experiments: Positively reciprocal workers are in fact paid more, and exert greater effort, on the job. Moreover, positively reciprocal people are more likely to be employed, report having more close friends, and have a higher overall level of life satisfaction. In this sense, Homo Reciprocans – in the positive domain – is in fact more successful than his or her non-reciprocal fellows.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 2205.

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Length: 40 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2006
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: The Economic Journal, 2009, 119 (536), 592 - 612
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2205

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Keywords: wage regression; SOEP; trust; reciprocity; unemployment; happiness;

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References

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Bonein, Aurélie & Serra, Daniel, 2007. "Another experimental look at reciprocal behavior: indirect reciprocity," MPRA Paper 3257, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Mar 2007.
  2. Simon Gaechter & Benedikt Herrmann, 2006. "The limits of self-governance in the presence of spite: Experimental evidence from urban and rural Russia," Discussion Papers, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham 2006-13, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
  3. Christian Pfeifer, 2010. "Impact of wages and job levels on worker absenteeism," International Journal of Manpower, Emerald Group Publishing, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 31(1), pages 59-72, May.
  4. Dohmen, Thomas J. & Falk, Armin & Huffman, David & Sunde, Uwe, 2012. "The intergenerational transmission of risk and trust attitudes," Munich Reprints in Economics, University of Munich, Department of Economics 20051, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  5. Herne, Kaisa & Lappalainen, Olli & Kestilä-Kekkonen, Elina, 2013. "Experimental comparison of direct, general, and indirect reciprocity," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 38-46.
  6. Robert Dur & Arjan Non & Hein Roelfsema, 2008. "Reciprocity and Incentive Pay in the Workplace," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers, Tinbergen Institute 08-080/1, Tinbergen Institute.
  7. Holger Bonin & Armin Falk & Hilmar Schneider, 2007. "Workfare – praktikabel und gerecht," Ifo Schnelldienst, Ifo Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 60(04), pages 33-37, 02.
  8. Traxler, Christian & Winter, Joachim, 2012. "Survey evidence on conditional norm enforcement," Munich Reprints in Economics, University of Munich, Department of Economics 19645, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  9. Max Albert & Vanessa Mertins, 2008. "Participation and Decision Making: A Three-person Power-to-take Experiment," MAGKS Papers on Economics, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung) 200805, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).

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