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Do People Keep Socially Unverifiable Promises?

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Abstract

Previous research has suggested that communication and especially promises increase cooperation in laboratory experiments. This has been taken as evidence for internal motivations such as guilt aversion or preference for promise keeping. The original goal of this paper was to examine promises under a double blind payoff procedure to test the alternative explanation that promise keeping was due to external influence and reputational concerns. We find no evidence that communication increases the overall level of cooperation in our double blind experiment. However, our results are due in part to the high level of cooperation that we observe, leading us to conduct additional single blind conditions. Ultimately, we find no evidence that communication or payoff procedures impact aggregate cooperation.

Suggested Citation

  • Cary Deck & Maroš Servátka & Steven Tucker, 2011. "Do People Keep Socially Unverifiable Promises?," Working Papers in Economics 11/39, University of Canterbury, Department of Economics and Finance.
  • Handle: RePEc:cbt:econwp:11/39
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    File URL: http://www.econ.canterbury.ac.nz/RePEc/cbt/econwp/1139.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Barmettler, Franziska & Fehr, Ernst & Zehnder, Christian, 2012. "Big experimenter is watching you! Anonymity and prosocial behavior in the laboratory," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 75(1), pages 17-34.
    2. Matthias Sutter, 2009. "Deception Through Telling the Truth?! Experimental Evidence From Individuals and Teams," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(534), pages 47-60, January.
    3. Miettinen, Topi, 2008. "Contracts and Promises - An Approach to Pre-play Agreements," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 707, Stockholm School of Economics.
    4. Ellingsen, Tore & Johannesson, Magnus & Tjøtta, Sigve & Torsvik, Gaute, 2010. "Testing guilt aversion," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 95-107, January.
    5. Daniel Zizzo, 2010. "Experimenter demand effects in economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 13(1), pages 75-98, March.
    6. James C. Cox & Cary A. Deck, 2005. "On the Nature of Reciprocal Motives," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 43(3), pages 623-635, July.
    7. Christoph Vanberg, 2008. "Why Do People Keep Their Promises? An Experimental Test of Two Explanations -super-1," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 76(6), pages 1467-1480, November.
    8. repec:cup:apsrev:v:86:y:1992:i:02:p:404-417_08 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Maroš Servátka & Steven Tucker & Radovan Vadovič, 2011. "Building Trust—One Gift at a Time," Games, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 2(4), pages 1-22, September.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Anonymity; experiment; promises; partnership; guilt aversion; psychological game theory; trust; lies; social distance; behavioral economics; hidden action;

    JEL classification:

    • C70 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - General
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior

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