Incentive contracts versus trust in three-person ultimatum games: an experimental study
Whether incentive contracts perform better than trust in terms of productive efficiency is usually explored by principal-agent experiments (most involving only one agent). We investigate this issue in the context of a three-person ultimatum experiment, which is simpler and more neutrally framed than traditional principal-agent designs. Contrary to the game theoretic prediction, we find that (mutual) trust is as good as incentive contracts in inducing costly actions by employees. Moreover, we observe an interesting order effect when switching from one regime to the other. This could be important when considering institutional change since (according to our data) early behavioral patterns may be irreversible.
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