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Reciprocity as a Contract Enforcement Device: Experimental Evidence

Author

Listed:
  • Ernst Fehr
  • Simon Gachter
  • Georg Kirchsteiger

Abstract

Numerous experimental studies indicate that people tend to reciprocate favors and punish unfair behavior. It is hypothesized that these behavioral responses contribute to the enforcement of contracts and increase gains from trade. It turns out that, if only one side of the market has opportunities for reciprocal responses, the impact of reciprocity on contract enforcement depends on the details of the pecuniary incentive system. If both sides of the market have opportunities for reciprocal responses, robust and powerful reciprocity effects occur. In particular, reciprocal behavior causes a substantial increase in the set of enforceable actions and large efficiency gains.

Suggested Citation

  • Ernst Fehr & Simon Gachter & Georg Kirchsteiger, 1997. "Reciprocity as a Contract Enforcement Device: Experimental Evidence," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(4), pages 833-860, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecm:emetrp:v:65:y:1997:i:4:p:833-860
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Ernst Fehr & Georg Kirchsteiger & Arno Riedl, 1993. "Does Fairness Prevent Market Clearing? An Experimental Investigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(2), pages 437-459.
    2. Grossman, Sanford J & Hart, Oliver D, 1983. "An Analysis of the Principal-Agent Problem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(1), pages 7-45, January.
    3. Guth, Werner, 1995. "An Evolutionary Approach to Explaining Cooperative Behavior by Reciprocal Incentives," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer;Game Theory Society, vol. 24(4), pages 323-344.
    4. repec:fth:prinin:345 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Berg Joyce & Dickhaut John & McCabe Kevin, 1995. "Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 122-142, July.
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