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“Optimal Contracts with Team Production and Hidden Information: An Experimentâ€

  • Cabrales, Antonio
  • Charness, Gary

It is standard in agency theory to search for incentive-compatible mechanisms on the assumption that people care only about their own material wealth. Yet it may be useful to consider social preferences in mechanism design and contract theory. We devise an experiment to explore optimal contracts in an adverse-selection context. A principal offers one of three possible contract menus to a team of two agents of unknown types. We observe numerous rejections of the more lopsided menus, and approach an equilibrium where one of the more equitable menus (which one depends on the reservation payoffs) is proposed and agents accept a contract, selecting actions according to their types. We estimate the Fehr and Schmidt (1999) and Charness and Rabin (2002) models of social preferences with our data, and calculate ex post optimal social-preference contracts. In both cases, the principal could substantially enhance his profitability if he could offer the derived optimal contract menu. We also find evidence that an agent is substantially more likely to reject a contract menu if her teammate rejected a contract menu in the previous period, suggesting that agents may be learning social norms.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara in its series University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series with number qt29v1b0pg.

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Date of creation: 01 Mar 2008
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Handle: RePEc:cdl:ucsbec:qt29v1b0pg
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  1. Nalbantian, Haig & Schotter, Andrew, 1994. "Productivity Under Group Incentives: An Experimental Study," Working Papers 94-04, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
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  3. Gary Charness & Martin Dufwenberg, 2004. "Promises and Partnership," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000001, UCLA Department of Economics.
  4. Keser, Claudia & Willinger, Marc, 2000. "Principals' principles when agents' actions are hidden," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 163-185, January.
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  8. Bull, Clive & Schotter, Andrew & Weigelt, Keith, 1985. "Tournaments and Piece Rates: An Experimental Study," Working Papers 85-21, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
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  12. Ananish Chaudhuri, 1997. "The Ratchet Principle in a Principal Agent Game with Unknown Costs: An Experimental Analysis," Departmental Working Papers 199608, Rutgers University, Department of Economics.
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  14. Guth, Werner & Schmittberger, Rolf & Schwarze, Bernd, 1982. "An experimental analysis of ultimatum bargaining," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 367-388, December.
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