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Does Making Specific Investments Unobservable Boost Investment Incentives?

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  • Randolph Sloof
  • Hessel Oosterbeek
  • Joep Sonnemans

Abstract

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.

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
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1530-9134.2007.00162.x
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    Cited by:

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    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. Morita, Hodaka & Servátka, Maroš, 2013. "Group identity and relation-specific investment: An experimental investigation," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 95-109.
    5. Allain, Marie-Laure & Chambolle, Claire & Rey, Patrick & Teyssier, Sabrina, 2021. "Vertical integration as a source of hold-up: An experiment," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 137(C).
    6. Brice Corgnet & Roberto Hernán-González, 2019. "Revisiting the Trade-off Between Risk and Incentives: The Shocking Effect of Random Shocks?," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 65(3), pages 1096-1114, March.
    7. Russell Golman & David Hagmann & George Loewenstein, 2017. "Information Avoidance," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 55(1), pages 96-135, March.
    8. Kaiming Zheng & Xiaoyuan Wang & Debing Ni & Yang Yang, 2020. "Reciprocity and Veto Power in Relation-Specific Investments: An Experimental Study," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 12(10), pages 1-19, May.
    9. Ismail Saglam, 2019. "The Effect of Awareness and Observability on the Non-contractible Investment of a Regulated Natural Monopoly," Journal of Industry, Competition and Trade, Springer, vol. 19(4), pages 617-639, December.
    10. 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.
    11. Allain, Marie-Laure & Chambolle, Claire & Rey, Patrick & Teyssier, Sabrina, 2021. "Vertical integration as a source of hold-up: An experiment," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 137(C).
    12. Charness, Gary & Kuhn, Peter, 2011. "Lab Labor: What Can Labor Economists Learn from the Lab?," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 3, pages 229-330, Elsevier.
    13. Mathias Erlei & J. Philipp Siemer, 2014. "Endogenous Property Rights in a Hold-up Experiment," Metroeconomica, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 65(2), pages 237-270, May.
    14. 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.
    15. Lisa Bruttel & Gerald Eisenkopf, 2009. "Incentive Compatible Contracts?," TWI Research Paper Series 43, Thurgauer Wirtschaftsinstitut, Universität Konstanz.
    16. Yadi Yang, 2021. "A Survey Of The Hold‐Up Problem In The Experimental Economics Literature," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 35(1), pages 227-249, February.

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