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Lavish Returns on Cheap Talk: Non-binding Communication in a Trust Experiment

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We let subjects interact with anonymous partners in trust (investment) games with and without one of two kinds of pre-play communication: numerical (tabular) only, and verbal and numerical. We find that either kind of pre-play communication increases trusting, trustworthiness, or both, in inter-subject comparisons, but that the inclusions of verbal communication generates both a larger effect and one that is robust across both inter-subject and intra-subject comparisons. In all conditions, trustors earn more when they invest more of their endowment, trustors and trustees gravitate to "fair and efficient" interactions, and the majority of trustees adhere to their commitments, whether explicit or implicit. Finally, we study trusting and trustworthiness in the sense of adhering to agreements, and we find that both are enhanced when the parties can use words, and especially when an agreement is reached with words and not only with the exchange of numerical proposals.

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  • Avner Ben-Ner & Louis Putterman & Ting Ren, 2007. "Lavish Returns on Cheap Talk: Non-binding Communication in a Trust Experiment," Working Papers 2007-15, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:bro:econwp:2007-15
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    Cited by:

    1. Ben-Ner, Avner & Putterman, Louis, 2009. "Trust, communication and contracts: An experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 70(1-2), pages 106-121, May.
    2. Bochet, Olivier & Putterman, Louis, 2009. "Not just babble: Opening the black box of communication in a voluntary contribution experiment," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 53(3), pages 309-326, April.
    3. Daniel Houser & Erte Xiao, 2011. "Classification of natural language messages using a coordination game," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 14(1), pages 1-14, March.
    4. Rigdon, Mary, 2009. "Trust and reciprocity in incentive contracting," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 70(1-2), pages 93-105, May.
    5. Belot, Michèle & Bhaskar, V. & van de Ven, Jeroen, 2010. "Promises and cooperation: Evidence from a TV game show," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 73(3), pages 396-405, March.
    6. Charness, Gary B & Dufwenberg, Martin, 2008. "Broken Promises: An Experiment," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt6836m74q, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.

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