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Broken Promises: An Experiment

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  • Charness, Gary B
  • Dufwenberg, Martin

Abstract

We test whether promises per se are effective in enhancing cooperative behavior in a form of trust game. In a new treatment, rather than permitting free-form messages, we instead allow only a bare promise-only message to be sent (or not). We find that bare promises are much less effective in achieving good social outcomes than free-form messages; in fact, bare promise-only messages lead to behavior that is much the same as when no messages are feasible. Our design also permits us to test the predictions of guilt aversion against the predictions of lying aversion. Our experimental results provide evidence that mainly supports the guilt-aversion predictions, but we also find some support for the presence of lying aversion.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdl:ucsbec:qt6836m74q
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Gary Charness & Matthew Rabin, 2002. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(3), pages 817-869.
    2. Ellingsen, Tore & Johannesson, Magnus & Tjøtta, Sigve & Torsvik, Gaute, 2010. "Testing guilt aversion," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 95-107, January.
    3. Tore Ellingsen & Magnus Johannesson, 2004. "Promises, Threats and Fairness," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(495), pages 397-420, April.
    4. Uri Gneezy, 2005. "Deception: The Role of Consequences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 384-394, March.
    5. Russell Cooper & Douglas V. DeJong & Robert Forsythe & Thomas W. Ross, 1992. "Communication in Coordination Games," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(2), pages 739-771.
    6. Russell Cooper & Douglas V. DeJong & Robert Forsythe & Thomas W. Ross, 1989. "Communication in the Battle of the Sexes Game: Some Experimental Results," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 20(4), pages 568-587, Winter.
    7. Jordi Brandts & Gary Charness, 2003. "Truth or Consequences: An Experiment," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 49(1), pages 116-130, January.
    8. Geanakoplos, John & Pearce, David & Stacchetti, Ennio, 1989. "Psychological games and sequential rationality," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 60-79, March.
    9. 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.
    10. Crawford, Vincent, 1998. "A Survey of Experiments on Communication via Cheap Talk," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 78(2), pages 286-298, February.
    11. Green, Jerry R. & Stokey, Nancy L., 2007. "A two-person game of information transmission," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 135(1), pages 90-104, July.
    12. Gary Charness & Martin Dufwenberg, 2006. "Promises and Partnership," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(6), pages 1579-1601, November.
    13. Andersen, Steffen & Fountain, John & Harrison, Glenn W. & Rutström, Elisabet, 2009. "Eliciting Beliefs," Working Papers 03-2009, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Economics.
    14. Crawford, Vincent P & Sobel, Joel, 1982. "Strategic Information Transmission," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(6), pages 1431-1451, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Cooper, David J. & Kühn, Kai-Uwe, 2009. "Communication, Renegotiation, and the Scope for Collusion," CEPR Discussion Papers 7563, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Nicolas Jacquemet & Adam Zylbersztejn, 2010. "Learning, words and actions : experimental evidence on coordination-improving information," Post-Print halshs-00505164, HAL.
    3. Rosaz, Julie & Villeval, Marie Claire, 2012. "Lies and biased evaluation: A real-effort experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 537-549.
    4. Beck, Adrian & Kerschbamer, Rudolf & Qiu, Jianying & Sutter, Matthias, 2010. "Guilt from Promise-Breaking and Trust in Markets for Expert Services – Theory and Experiment," Working Papers in Economics 436, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
    5. Lenton, Pamela & Mosley, Paul, 2011. "Incentivising trust," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 32(5), pages 890-897.
    6. Schütte, Miriam & Thoma, Carmen, 2014. "Promises and Image Concerns," Discussion Papers in Economics 20861, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    7. repec:hal:cesptp:halshs-00845123 is not listed on IDEAS

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