IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Does Making Specific Investments Unobservable Boost Investment Incentives?


  • Randolph Sloof
  • Hessel Oosterbeek
  • Joep Sonnemans


"Standard theory predicts that holdup can be alleviated by making specific investments unobservable; private information creates an informational rent that boosts investment incentives. Empirical findings, however, indicate that holdup is attenuated by fairness and reciprocity motivations. Private information may interfere with these, as it becomes impossible to observe whether the investor behaved fair or not. In that way unobservability could crowd out an informal fairness/reciprocity mechanism in place. This paper reports on an experiment to investigate this issue empirically. Our results are in line with standard predictions when there is limited scope for social preferences. But with sufficient scope for these motivational factors, unobservability does not boost specific investments." Copyright 2007, The Author(s) Journal Compilation (c) 2007 Blackwell Publishing.

Suggested Citation

  • Randolph Sloof & Hessel Oosterbeek & Joep Sonnemans, 2007. "Does Making Specific Investments Unobservable Boost Investment Incentives?," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 16(4), pages 911-942, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jemstr:v:16:y:2007:i:4:p:911-942

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: link to full text
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Daniel F. Spulber, 1996. "Market Microstructure and Intermediation," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(3), pages 135-152, Summer.
    2. Daniel F. Spulber, 1996. "Market Making by Price-Setting Firms," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 63(4), pages 559-580.
    3. John Rust & George Hall, 2003. "Middlemen versus Market Makers: A Theory of Competitive Exchange," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(2), pages 353-403, April.
    4. Yavas, Abdullah, 1994. "Middlemen in Bilateral Search Markets," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 12(3), pages 406-429, July.
    5. Yavas Abdullah, 1995. "Can Brokerage Have an Equilibrium Selection Role?," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 17-37, January.
    6. repec:rus:hseeco:72158 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Stahl, Dale O, II, 1988. "Bertrand Competition for Inputs and Walrasian Outcomes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(1), pages 189-201, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Sloof, Randolph & Sonnemans, Joep, 2011. "The interaction between explicit and relational incentives: An experiment," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 73(2), pages 573-594.
    2. Morita, Hodaka & Servátka, Maroš, 2013. "Group identity and relation-specific investment: An experimental investigation," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 95-109.
    3. von Siemens, Ferdinand A., 2009. "Bargaining under incomplete information, fairness, and the hold-up problem," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 486-494, August.
    4. Kübler, Dorothea & Müller, Wieland & Normann, Hans-Theo, 2008. "Job-market signaling and screening: An experimental comparison," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 64(1), pages 219-236, September.
    5. Ferdinand A. Von Siemens, 2009. "Bargaining under Incomplete Information, Fairness, and the Hold-Up Problem¤," Post-Print hal-00674101, HAL.
    6. Charness, Gary & Kuhn, Peter, 2011. "Lab Labor: What Can Labor Economists Learn from the Lab?," Handbook of Labor Economics, Elsevier.
    7. Mathias Erlei & J. Philipp Siemer, 2014. "Endogenous Property Rights in a Hold-up Experiment," Metroeconomica, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 65(2), pages 237-270, May.
    8. Russell Golman & David Hagmann & George Loewenstein, 2017. "Information Avoidance," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 55(1), pages 96-135, March.
    9. Sloof, Randolph, 2008. "Price-setting power vs. private information: An experimental evaluation of their impact on holdup," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 52(3), pages 469-486, April.
    10. Lisa Bruttel & Gerald Eisenkopf, 2009. "Incentive Compatible Contracts?," TWI Research Paper Series 43, Thurgauer Wirtschaftsinstitut, Universität Konstanz.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:bla:jemstr:v:16:y:2007:i:4:p:911-942. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Wiley-Blackwell Digital Licensing) or (Christopher F. Baum). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.