IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Let’s talk: How communication affects contract design

  • Charness, Gary
  • Brandts, Jordi
  • Ellman, Matthew

We study experimentally how the ability to communicate affects the frequency andeffectiveness of flexible and inflexible contracts in a bilateral trade context where sellers canadjust trade quality after observing a post-contractual cost shock and a discretionary buyertransfer. In the absence of communication, we find that rigid contracts are more frequent andlead to higher earnings for both buyer and seller. By contrast, in the presence of communication,flexible contracts are much more frequent and considerably more productive, both for buyers andsellers. Also, both buyer and seller earn considerably more from flexible with communicationthan rigid without communication. Our results show quite strongly that communication, a normalfeature in contracting, can remove the potential cost of flexibility (disagreements caused byconflicting perceptions). We offer an explanation based on social norms.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:;origin=repeccitec
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara in its series University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series with number qt6z24s6rv.

in new window

Date of creation: 16 Jun 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cdl:ucsbec:qt6z24s6rv
Contact details of provider: Postal: 2127 North Hall, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9210
Phone: (805) 893-3670
Fax: (805) 893-8830
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Cooper, Russell, et al, 1990. "Selection Criteria in Coordination Games: Some Experimental Results," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(1), pages 218-33, March.
  2. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:117:y:2002:i:3:p:817-869 is not listed on IDEAS
  3. Oprea, Ryan & Charness, Gary & Friedman, Daniel, 2014. "Continuous time and communication in a public-goods experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 212-223.
  4. Charness, Gary & Rabin, Matthew, 2002. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt3d04q5sm, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  5. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 2006. "Contracts as Reference Points," ESE Discussion Papers 170, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
  6. Andreoni, James, 1990. "Impure Altruism and Donations to Public Goods: A Theory of Warm-Glow Giving?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 100(401), pages 464-77, June.
  7. Ernst Fehr & Oliver Hart & Christian Zehnder, 2008. "Contracts as reference points – experimental evidence," IEW - Working Papers 393, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  8. Charness, Gary & Dufwenberg, Martin, 2010. "Bare promises: An experiment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 107(2), pages 281-283, May.
  9. Fehr, Ernst & Hart, Oliver & Zehnder, Christian, 2011. "How Do Informal Agreements and Renegotiation Shape Contractual Reference Points?," IZA Discussion Papers 6095, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  10. Matthew Ellman & Paul Pezanis-Christou, 2007. "Organisational structure, communication and group ethics," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 682.07, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cdl:ucsbec:qt6z24s6rv. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Lisa Schiff)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.