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Honesty, lemons, and symbolic signals

Author

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  • Jorge M. Streb
  • Gustavo Torrens

Abstract

Under asymmetric information, dishonest sellers lead to market unraveling in the lemons model. An additional cost of dishonesty is that language becomes cheap talk. We develop instead a model where people derive utility from actions (what they say), as well as from outcomes, so talk is costly. We find that the existence of honest agents that mean what they say is not enough to make trade more likely, unless a traceability condition that prevents arbitrage is met. When we introduce a continuum of misrepresentation cost types and qualities, full market unraveling is not possible and babbling equilibria are eliminated. More generally, costly talk is a special kind of signal, a symbolic signal that presupposes linguistic conventions, otherwise truth and falsehood, as well as misrepresentation costs, are undefined.

Suggested Citation

  • Jorge M. Streb & Gustavo Torrens, 2012. "Honesty, lemons, and symbolic signals," CEMA Working Papers: Serie Documentos de Trabajo. 492, Universidad del CEMA.
  • Handle: RePEc:cem:doctra:492
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    File URL: http://www.ucema.edu.ar/publicaciones/download/documentos/492.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Stein, Ernesto H. & Streb, Jorge M., 2004. "Elections and the timing of devaluations," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(1), pages 119-145, May.
    2. Mas-Colell, Andreu & Whinston, Michael D. & Green, Jerry R., 1995. "Microeconomic Theory," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195102680.
    3. Michihiro Kandori, 1992. "Social Norms and Community Enforcement," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 59(1), pages 63-80.
    4. George A. Akerlof, 1970. "The Market for "Lemons": Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 84(3), pages 488-500.
    5. Jorge M. Streb & Gustavo Torrens, 2011. "Meaningful talk," CEMA Working Papers: Serie Documentos de Trabajo. 443, Universidad del CEMA, revised May 2017.
    6. Michael Spence, 1973. "Job Market Signaling," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 87(3), pages 355-374.
    7. William Mitchell, 1984. "Schumpeter and public choice, Part I: Precursor to public choice?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 42(1), pages 73-88, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Michael T. Rauh & Giulio Seccia, 2014. "Honesty and Trade," Working Papers 2014-06, Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Department of Business Economics and Public Policy.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    asymmetric information; honesty; trust; symbols; signals; costly talk;

    JEL classification:

    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty
    • C7 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory

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