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Contracting under Incomplete Information and Social Preferences: An Experimental Study

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  • Eva I. Hoppe
  • Patrick W. Schmitz

Abstract

Principal--agent models in which the agent has access to private information before a contract is signed are a cornerstone of contract theory. We have conducted an experiment with 720 participants to explore whether the theoretical insights are reflected by the behaviour of subjects in the laboratory and to what extent deviations from standard theory can be explained by social preferences. Investigating settings with both exogenous and endogenous information structures, we find that agency theory is indeed useful to qualitatively predict how variations in the degree of uncertainty affect subjects' behaviour. Regarding the quantitative deviations from standard predictions, our analysis based on several control treatments and quantal response estimations shows that agents' behaviour can be explained by social preferences that are less pronounced than in conventional ultimatum games. Principals' own social preferences are not an important determinant of their behaviour. However, when the principals make contract offers, they anticipate that social preferences affect agents' behaviour. Copyright 2013, Oxford University Press.

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  • Eva I. Hoppe & Patrick W. Schmitz, 2013. "Contracting under Incomplete Information and Social Preferences: An Experimental Study," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 80(4), pages 1516-1544.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:restud:v:80:y:2013:i:4:p:1516-1544
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D86 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Economics of Contract Law
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior

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