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

Does Laboratory Trading Mirror Behavior in Real World Markets? Fair Bargaining and Competitive Bidding on EBay

  • Gary E. Bolton
  • Axel Ockenfels

We conducted a controlled field experiment on eBay and examined to what extent both social and competitive laboratory behavior is robust to institutionally complex real world markets with experienced traders, who selected themselves into these markets. EBay’s natural trading system provides bridges between lab and field environment that can be exploited to explore differences in behavior in the two environments. We find that many sellers do not make use of their commitment power as predicted by standard theories of both selfish and social behavior. However, a concern for equity strongly affects outcomes and reputation building in bilateral bargaining, while buyer competition effectively masks this concern and robustly yields equilibrium outcomes. The dichotomy of behaviors mirrors observations in laboratory research. Furthermore, we find that behavioral patterns in the field experiment mirror fully naturally occurring trading patterns in the market.

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:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 2241.

in new window

Date of creation: 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_2241
Contact details of provider: Postal: Poschingerstrasse 5, 81679 Munich
Phone: +49 (89) 9224-0
Fax: +49 (89) 985369
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. Ginger Zhe Jin & Andrew Kato & John A. List, 2010. "That'S News To Me! Information Revelation In Professional Certification Markets," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 48(1), pages 104-122, 01.
  2. Bolton Gary E. & Zwick Rami, 1995. "Anonymity versus Punishment in Ultimatum Bargaining," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 95-121, July.
  3. Bajari, Patrick & Hortacsu, Ali, 2003. " The Winner's Curse, Reserve Prices, and Endogenous Entry: Empirical Insights from eBay Auctions," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 34(2), pages 329-55, Summer.
  4. David Lucking-Reiley, 1999. "Using field experiments to test equivalence between auction formats: Magic on the internet," Framed Field Experiments 00183, The Field Experiments Website.
  5. Simon Gachter & Ernst Fehr, 2000. "Cooperation and Punishment in Public Goods Experiments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 980-994, September.
  6. Axel Ockenfels & Alvin E. Roth, 2003. "Late and Multiple Bidding in Second Price Internet Auctions: Theory and Evidence Concerning Different Rules for Ending an Auction," CESifo Working Paper Series 992, CESifo Group Munich.
  7. Bolton, Gary E, 1991. "A Comparative Model of Bargaining: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(5), pages 1096-136, December.
  8. Dan Ariely & Axel Ockenfels & Alvin E. Roth, 2003. "An Experimental Analysis of Ending Rules in Internet Auctions," CESifo Working Paper Series 987, CESifo Group Munich.
  9. Paul Klemperer, 2004. "Introduction to Auctions: Theory and Practice
    [Auctions: Theory and Practice]
    ," Introductory Chapters, Princeton University Press.
  10. Alvin E. Roth & V. Prasnikar & M. Okuno-Fujiwara & S. Zamir, 1998. "Bargaining and market behavior in Jerusalem, Liubljana, Pittsburgh and Tokyo: an experimental study," Levine's Working Paper Archive 344, David K. Levine.
  11. Paul Klemperer, 2004. "Auctions: Theory and Practice," Economics Series Working Papers 2004-W09, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  12. Andreoni, James A & Miller, John H, 1993. "Rational Cooperation in the Finitely Repeated Prisoner's Dilemma: Experimental Evidence," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 103(418), pages 570-85, May.
  13. Roth, Alvin E & Murnighan, J Keith & Schoumaker, Francoise, 1988. "The Deadline Effect in Bargaining: Some Experimental Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(4), pages 806-23, September.
  14. Dyer, Douglas & Kagel, John H & Levin, Dan, 1989. "A Comparison of Naive and Experienced Bidders in Common Value Offer Auctions: A Laboratory Analysis," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 99(394), pages 108-15, March.
  15. Gary Bolton & Ben Greiner & Axel Ockenfels, 2009. "Engineering Trust - Reciprocity in the Production of Reputation Information," Working Paper Series in Economics 42, University of Cologne, Department of Economics, revised 22 Jan 2011.
  16. Uri Gneezy & John A List, 2006. "Putting Behavioral Economics to Work: Testing for Gift Exchange in Labor Markets Using Field Experiments," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(5), pages 1365-1384, 09.
  17. Brandts, Jordi & Figueras, Neus, 2003. "An exploration of reputation formation in experimental games," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 89-115, January.
  18. Vernon L. Smith, 1962. "An Experimental Study of Competitive Market Behavior," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 70, pages 111.
  19. David Reiley & John List, 2008. "Field experiments," Artefactual Field Experiments 00091, The Field Experiments Website.
  20. Paul Resnick & Richard Zeckhauser & John Swanson & Kate Lockwood, 2006. "The value of reputation on eBay: A controlled experiment," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 9(2), pages 79-101, June.
  21. Yan Chen & F. Maxwell Harper & Joseph Konstan & Sherry Xin Li, 2010. "Social Comparisons and Contributions to Online Communities: A Field Experiment on MovieLens," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(4), pages 1358-98, September.
  22. Werner Güth & Carsten Schmidt & Matthias Sutter, 2005. "Bargaining Outside the Lab – A Newspaper Experiment of a Three-Person Ultimatum Game," Papers on Strategic Interaction 2002-11, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Strategic Interaction Group.
  23. Dufwenberg, Martin & Gneezy, Uri, 2000. "Price competition and market concentration: an experimental study," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 7-22, January.
  24. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1999. "A theory of fairness, competition, and cooperation," Munich Reprints in Economics 20650, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  25. Camerer, Colin & Weigelt, Keith, 1988. "Experimental Tests of a Sequential Equilibrium Reputation Model," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(1), pages 1-36, January.
  26. Ockenfels, Axel & Sliwka, Dirk & Werner, Peter, 2010. "Bonus Payments and Reference Point Violations," IZA Discussion Papers 4795, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  27. Chrysanthos Dellarocas & Charles A. Wood, 2008. "The Sound of Silence in Online Feedback: Estimating Trading Risks in the Presence of Reporting Bias," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 54(3), pages 460-476, March.
  28. Margin Dufwenberg & Georg Kirchsteiger, 2001. "A Theory of Sequential Reciprocity," Levine's Working Paper Archive 563824000000000090, David K. Levine.
  29. Robert Slonim & Alvin E. Roth, 1998. "Learning in High Stakes Ultimatum Games: An Experiment in the Slovak Republic," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 66(3), pages 569-596, May.
  30. repec:rje:randje:v:37:y:2006:1:p:195-211 is not listed on IDEAS
  31. Patrick Bajari & Ali Horta�su, 2004. "Economic Insights from Internet Auctions," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(2), pages 457-486, June.
  32. David Lucking-Reiley, 2000. "Field experiments on the effects of reserve prices in auctions: More magic on the internet," Framed Field Experiments 00184, The Field Experiments Website.
  33. Steven D. Levitt & John A. List, 2007. "What Do Laboratory Experiments Measuring Social Preferences Reveal About the Real World?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 153-174, Spring.
  34. McKelvey, Richard D & Palfrey, Thomas R, 1992. "An Experimental Study of the Centipede Game," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(4), pages 803-36, July.
  35. Daniel W. Elfenbein & Ray Fisman & Brian Mcmanus, 2012. "Charity as a Substitute for Reputation: Evidence from an Online Marketplace," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 79(4), pages 1441-1468.
  36. Alvin E. Roth & Axel Ockenfels, 2002. "Last-Minute Bidding and the Rules for Ending Second-Price Auctions: Evidence from eBay and Amazon Auctions on the Internet," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 1093-1103, September.
  37. Richard Engelbrecht-Wiggans, 1987. "On Optimal Reservation Prices in Auctions," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 33(6), pages 763-770, June.
  38. Plott, Charles R, 1982. "Industrial Organization Theory and Experimental Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 20(4), pages 1485-1527, December.
  39. Timothy Mathews, 2004. "The Impact of Discounting on an Auction with a Buyout Option: a Theoretical Analysis Motivated by eBay’s Buy-It-Now Feature," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 81(1), pages 25-52, 01.
  40. Young Han Lee & Ulrike Malmendier, 2007. "The Bidder's Curse," NBER Working Papers 13699, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  41. M. Rabin, 2001. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," Levine's Working Paper Archive 511, David K. Levine.
  42. Card, David & Mas, Alexandre & Moretti, Enrico & Saez, Emmanuel, 2010. "Inequality at Work: The Effect of Peer Salaries on Job Satisfaction," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt48z7z9dn, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
  43. repec:feb:framed:00135 is not listed on IDEAS
  44. John A. List, 2005. "The Behavioralist Meets the Market: Measuring Social Preferences and Reputation Effects in Actual Transactions," NBER Working Papers 11616, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  45. Ma, Ching-To Albert & Manove, Michael, 1993. "Bargaining with Deadlines and Imperfect Player Control," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 61(6), pages 1313-39, November.
  46. Axel Ockenfels & Gary E. Bolton, 2000. "ERC: A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 166-193, March.
  47. David J. Cooper, 1999. "Gaming against Managers in Incentive Systems: Experimental Results with Chinese Students and Chinese Managers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(4), pages 781-804, September.
  48. John Wooders & Stanley S. Reynolds, 2004. "Auctions with a Buy Price," Econometric Society 2004 North American Summer Meetings 130, Econometric Society.
  49. repec:feb:framed:0076 is not listed on IDEAS
  50. John A. List, 2003. "Neoclassical Theory Versus Prospect Theory: Evidence from the Marketplace," NBER Working Papers 9736, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  51. Guth, Werner & Schmittberger, Rolf & Schwarze, Bernd, 1982. "An experimental analysis of ultimatum bargaining," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 367-388, December.
  52. Ginger Zhe Jin & Andrew Kato, 2006. "Price, quality, and reputation: evidence from an online field experiment," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 37(4), pages 983-1005, December.
  53. Gary E. Bolton & Axel Ockenfels & Ulrich W. Thonemann, 2012. "Managers and Students as Newsvendors," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 58(12), pages 2225-2233, December.
  54. Andrew Kato & Ginger Jin, 2004. "Consumer frauds and the uninformed: Evidence from an online field experiment," Natural Field Experiments 00275, The Field Experiments Website.
  55. Kagel, John H. & Kim, Chung & Moser, Donald, 1996. "Fairness in Ultimatum Games with Asymmetric Information and Asymmetric Payoffs," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 100-110, March.
  56. Smith, Vernon L, 1982. "Microeconomic Systems as an Experimental Science," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(5), pages 923-55, December.
  57. Gary E. Bolton & Axel Ockenfels, 1998. "Strategy and Equity: An ERC Analysis of the Guth-van Damme Game," Levine's Working Paper Archive 2060, David K. Levine.
  58. Forsythe Robert & Horowitz Joel L. & Savin N. E. & Sefton Martin, 1994. "Fairness in Simple Bargaining Experiments," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 347-369, May.
  59. James Andreoni & Marco Castillo & Ragan Petrie, 2003. "What Do Bargainers' Preferences Look Like? Experiments with a Convex Ultimatum Game," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(3), pages 672-685, June.
  60. Armin Falk, 2007. "Gift Exchange in the Field," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(5), pages 1501-1511, 09.
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:ces:ceswps:_2241. 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: (Julio Saavedra)

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.