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You Owe Me

Author

Listed:
  • Ulrike M. Malmendier
  • Klaus Schmidt

Abstract

In many cultures and industries gifts are given in order to influence the recipient, often at the expense of a third party. Examples include business gifts of firms and lobbyists. In a series of experiments, we show that, even without incentive or informational effects, small gifts strongly influence the recipient’s behavior in favor of the gift giver, in particular when a third party bears the cost. Subjects are well aware that the gift is given to influence their behavior but reciprocate nevertheless. Withholding the gift triggers a strong negative response. These findings are inconsistent with the most prominent models of social preferences. We propose an extension of existing theories to capture the observed behavior by endogenizing the “reference group” to whom social preferences are applied. We also show that disclosure and size limits are not effective in reducing the effect of gifts, consistent with our model. Financial incentives ameliorate the effect of the gift but backfire when available but not provided.

Suggested Citation

  • Ulrike M. Malmendier & Klaus Schmidt, 2012. "You Owe Me," CESifo Working Paper Series 4007, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_4007
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gächter, 2000. "Fairness and Retaliation: The Economics of Reciprocity," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 159-181, Summer.
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    6. Strassmair, Christina, 2009. "Can intentions spoil the kindness of a gift? - An experimental study," Discussion Papers in Economics 10351, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    7. Matthew Rabin, 2000. "Risk Aversion and Expected-Utility Theory: A Calibration Theorem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(5), pages 1281-1292, September.
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    10. Abbink, Klaus, 2004. "Staff rotation as an anti-corruption policy: an experimental study," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 20(4), pages 887-906, November.
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    12. 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, September.
    13. Strassmair, Christina, 2009. "Can intentions spoil the kindness of a gift? - An experimental study," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 302, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Pan, Xiaofei & Xiao, Erte, 2016. "It’s not just the thought that counts: An experimental study on the hidden cost of giving," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 138(C), pages 22-31.
    2. van Veldhuizen, R., 2013. "The influence of wages on public officials’ corruptibility: A laboratory investigation," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 341-356.
    3. van Veldhuizen, Roel, 2013. "The influence of wages on public officials' corruptibility: A laboratory investigation," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Market Behavior SP II 2013-210, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
    4. Delaney, Jason & Jacobson, Sarah, 2015. "The good of the few: Reciprocal acts and the provision of a public bad," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 46-55.
    5. Currie, Janet & Lin, Wanchuan & Meng, Juanjuan, 2013. "Social networks and externalities from gift exchange: Evidence from a field experiment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 107(C), pages 19-30.
    6. Maggian, Valeria & Montinari, Natalia & Nicolò, Antonio, 2015. "Backscratching in Hierarchical Organizations," Working Papers 2015:10, Lund University, Department of Economics.
    7. Gneezy, Uri & Saccardo, Silvia & van Veldhuizen, Roel, 2016. "Bribery: Greed versus reciprocity," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Market Behavior SP II 2016-203, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
    8. repec:eee:joepsy:v:61:y:2017:i:c:p:152-175 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. van Winden, Frans, 2015. "Political economy with affect: On the role of emotions and relationships in political economics," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 40(PB), pages 298-311.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    gift exchange; externalities; lobbyism; corruption; reciprocity; social preferences;

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D73 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Bureaucracy; Administrative Processes in Public Organizations; Corruption
    • I11 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Analysis of Health Care Markets

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