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Trust as a Signal of a Social Norm and the Hidden Costs of Incentive Schemes

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  • Dirk Sliwka

Abstract

An explanation for motivation crowding-out phenomena is developed in a social preferences framework. Besides selfish and fair or altruistic types, a third type of agent is introduced. These "conformists" have social preferences if they believe that sufficiently many of the others do as well. When there is asymmetric information about the distribution of preferences (the "social norm"), the incentive scheme offered or autonomy granted can reveal a principal's beliefs about that norm. High-powered incentives may crowd out motivation as pessimism about the norm is conveyed. But by choosing fixed wages or granting autonomy, trust in a favorable norm may be signaled. (JEL D64, D82, J41, Z13)

Suggested Citation

  • Dirk Sliwka, 2007. "Trust as a Signal of a Social Norm and the Hidden Costs of Incentive Schemes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(3), pages 999-1012, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:97:y:2007:i:3:p:999-1012
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.97.3.999
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • M52 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Compensation and Compensation Methods and Their Effects
    • J33 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Compensation Packages; Payment Methods
    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights

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