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Testing theories of reciprocity: Do motivations matter?

  • Stanca, Luca
  • Bruni, Luigino
  • Corazzini, Luca

One of the key issues for understanding reciprocity is how agents evaluate the kindness of an action. In this paper we investigate experimentally the hypothesis that the motivation driving an action is relevant for its perceived kindness and, as a consequence, for reciprocal behavior. In particular, we examine the hypothesis that, for a given distributional outcome, positive reciprocity is less strong in response to strategically motivated actions than to non-strategically motivated actions. Our results indicate that, both at the aggregate and the individual level, reciprocity is significantly stronger when strategic motivations can be ruled out. These findings suggest that intentions matter and, in particular, that models of intention-based reciprocity should take into account the nature of the motivations behind choices.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

Volume (Year): 71 (2009)
Issue (Month): 2 (August)
Pages: 233-245

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:71:y:2009:i:2:p:233-245
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