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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. Charness, Gary & Rabin, Matthew, 2001. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt4qz9k8vg, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
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    Cited by:

    1. David J. Cooper & Kai-Uwe K?hn, 2014. "Communication, Renegotiation, and the Scope for Collusion," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 6(2), pages 247-278, May.
    2. Jacquemet Nicolas & Zylbersztejn Adam, 2013. "Learning, Words and Actions: Experimental Evidence on Coordination-Improving Information," The B.E. Journal of Theoretical Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 13(1), pages 1-33, July.
    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:pseose:halshs-00845123 is not listed on IDEAS

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