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The Impact Of Social Comparisons On Reciprocity

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  • Simon Gaechter

    () (University of Nottingham)

  • Daniele Nosenzo

    (University of Nottingham)

  • Martin Sefton

    (University of Nottingham)

Abstract

This paper investigates how social comparison information about referent others (i.e. learning what similar others do and how they are treated) affects reciprocal relationships. Using a three-person gift-exchange game we study how employees’ reciprocity towards an employer is affected by exposure to pay comparison information (what co-workers earn) and effort comparison information (how co-workers perform). We find that pay comparison information does not affect reciprocity. Effort comparison information, however, influences reciprocal relationships in important ways: the ability to observe reciprocal behavior on the part of others strongly affects employees’ reciprocity towards the employer. While our data show that social information in principle may either erode or amplify reciprocal relationships, we find that, on average, social comparisons have a detrimental impact on reciprocity.

Suggested Citation

  • Simon Gaechter & Daniele Nosenzo & Martin Sefton, 2010. "The Impact Of Social Comparisons On Reciprocity," Discussion Papers 2010-10, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdx:dpaper:2010-10
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    Keywords

    Reciprocity; gift-exchange; social information; social comparisons; pay comparisons;

    JEL classification:

    • A13 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Social Values
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

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