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A Theory of Reciprocity

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  • Armin Falk
  • Urs Fischbacher

Abstract

This paper presents a formal theory of reciprocity. Reciprocity means that people reward kind actions and punish unkind ones. The theory takes into account that people evaluate the kindness of an action not only by its consequences but also by the intention underlying this action. The theory explains the relevant stylized facts of a wide range of experimental games. Among them are the ultimatum game, the gift-exchange game, a reduced best-shot game, the dictator game, the prisoner's dilemma, public goods games, and the investment game. Further, the theory explains why subjects behave differently in treatments where they experience the actions of real persons compared to treatments where they face 'actions' caused by a random device. Finally, the theory explains why in bilateral interactions outcomes tend to be ''fair'' whereas in competitive markets even extremely unfair distributions may arise.

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Paper provided by Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich in its series IEW - Working Papers with number 006.

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Handle: RePEc:zur:iewwpx:006

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Keywords: Reciprocity; experimental games; prisoner's dilemma;

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  18. Gary Bolton & Jordi Brandts & Axel Ockenfels, 1998. "Measuring Motivations for the Reciprocal Responses Observed in a Simple Dilemma Game," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 1(3), pages 207-219, December.
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  25. Hoffman, Elizabeth & McCabe, Kevin & Smith, Vernon L, 1996. "Social Distance and Other-Regarding Behavior in Dictator Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 653-60, June.
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  29. McCabe, Kevin A. & Rigdon, Mary L. & Smith, Vernon L., 2003. "Positive reciprocity and intentions in trust games," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 267-275, October.
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