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How Do Informal Agreements and Renegotiation Shape Contractual Reference Points?

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  • Ernst Fehr
  • Oliver D. Hart
  • Christian Zehnder

Abstract

Previous experimental work provides encouraging support for some of the central assumptions underlying Hart and Moore (2008)’s theory of contractual reference points. However, existing studies ignore realistic aspects of trading relationships such as informal agreements and ex post renegotiation. We investigate the relevance of these features experimentally. Our evidence indicates that the central behavioral mechanism underlying the concept of contractual reference points is robust to the presence of informal agreements and ex post renegotiation. However, our data also reveal new behavioral features that suggest refinements of the theory. In particular, we find that the availability of informal agreements and ex post renegotiation changes how trading parties evaluate ex post outcomes. Interestingly, the availability of these additional options affects ex post evaluations even in situations in which the parties do not use them.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17545.

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Date of creation: Oct 2011
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17545

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References

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  1. Fehr, Ernst & Götte, Lorenz & Zehnder, Christian, 2008. "A Behavioral Account of the Labor Market: The Role of Fairness Concerns," IZA Discussion Papers 3901, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Gary Charness & Matthew Rabin, 2002. "Understanding Social Preferences With Simple Tests," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(3), pages 817-869, August.
  3. Greiner, Ben, 2004. "An Online Recruitment System for Economic Experiments," MPRA Paper 13513, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Fehr, Ernst & Hart, Oliver & Zehnder, Christian, 2008. "Contracts as Reference Points: Experimental Evidence," IZA Discussion Papers 3889, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Hoppe, Eva I. & Schmitz, Patrick W., 2009. "Can Contracts Solve the Hold-Up Problem? Experimental Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 7205, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  7. Ernst Fehr & Oliver Hart & Christian Zehnder, 2009. "Contracts, Reference Points, and Competition-Behavioral Effects of The Fundamental Transformation," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 7(2-3), pages 561-572, 04-05.
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Cited by:
  1. Cappelen, Alexander W. & Hagen, Rune Jansen & Sørensen, Erik Ø. & Tungodden, Bertil, 2012. "DO NON-ENFORCEABLE CONTRACTS MATTER? EVIDENCE FROM AN INTERNATIONAL LAB EXPERIMENT Department," Working Papers in Economics 16/12, University of Bergen, Department of Economics.
  2. Bohdan Kukharskyy, 2012. "Global Sourcing if Contracts are Reference Points," Working Papers 129, Bavarian Graduate Program in Economics (BGPE).
  3. Charness, Gary & Brandts, Jordi & Ellman, Matthew, 2012. "Let’s talk: How communication affects contract design," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt6z24s6rv, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  4. Cappelen, Alexander W. & Hagen, Rune Jansen & Sørensen, Erik Ø. & Tungodden, Bertil, 2012. "Do non-enforceable contracts matter? Evidence from an international lab experiment," Discussion Paper Series in Economics 2/2012, Department of Economics, Norwegian School of Economics, revised 03 Apr 2012.

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