IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Social Preferences and Strategic Uncertainty: An Experiment on Markets and Contracts

  • Antonio Cabrales
  • Raffaele Miniaci
  • Marco Piovesan
  • Giovanni Ponti

This paper reports a 3-phase experiment on a stylized labor market. In the first two phases, agents face simple games, which we use to estimate subjects’ social and reciprocity concerns, together with their beliefs. In the last phase, four principals, who face four teams of two agents, compete by offering agents a contract from a fixed menu. Then, each agent selects one of the available contracts (i.e. he “chooses to work” for a principal). Production is determined by the outcome of a simple e ort game induced by the chosen contract. We find that (heterogeneous) social preferences are significant determinants of choices in all phases of the experiment. Since the available contracts display a trade-o between fairness and strategic uncertainty, we observe that the latter is a much stronger determinant of choices, for both principals and agents. Finally, we also see that social preferences explain, to a large extent, matching between principals and agents, since agents display a marked propensity to work for principals with similar social preferences.

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 FEDEA in its series Working Papers with number 2009-09.

in new window

Date of creation: Feb 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fda:fdaddt:2009-09
Contact details of provider: Web page:

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. Pedro Rey-Biel, 2008. "Inequity Aversion and Team Incentives," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 110(2), pages 297-320, 06.
  2. Michael Kosfeld & Ferdinand von Siemens, 2007. "Competition, Cooperation, and Corporate Culture," IEW - Working Papers 328, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  3. Sabrina Teyssier, 2007. "Optimal Group Incentives with Social Preferences and Self-Selection," Working Papers 0710, Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique (GATE), Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), Université Lyon 2, Ecole Normale Supérieure.
  4. Krueger, Alan B. & Schkade, David A., 2007. "Sorting in the Labor Market: Do Gregarious Workers Flock to Interactive Jobs?," IZA Discussion Papers 2730, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. John S. Heywood & Uwe Jirjahn, 2004. "Teams, Teamwork and Absence," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 106(4), pages 765-782, December.
  6. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  7. Yaw Nyarko & Andrew Schotter, 2002. "An Experimental Study of Belief Learning Using Elicited Beliefs," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(3), pages 971-1005, May.
  8. Raymond Fisman & Shachar Kariv & Daniel Markovits, 2007. "Individual Preferences for Giving," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(5), pages 1858-1876, December.
  9. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, . "Fairness, Incentives, and Contractual Choices," IEW - Working Papers 020, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  10. repec:pri:cepsud:139krueger is not listed on IDEAS
  11. Crawford, Vincent P, 1995. "Adaptive Dynamics in Coordination Games," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(1), pages 103-43, January.
  12. Frank Heinemann & Rosemarie Nagel & Peter Ockenfels, 2004. "Measuring strategic uncertainty in coordination games," Economics Working Papers 804, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  13. Manski, Charles F., 2002. "Identification of decision rules in experiments on simple games of proposal and response," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 46(4-5), pages 880-891, May.
  14. Fehr, Ernst & Klein, Alexander & Schmidt, Klaus M., 2005. "Fairness and Contract Design," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 67, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
  15. Fershtman, Chaim & Hvide, Hans K & Weiss, Yoram, 2003. "Cultural Diversity, Status Concerns and the Organization of Work," CEPR Discussion Papers 3982, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  16. Eyal Winter, 2003. "Incentives and Discrimination," Discussion Paper Series dp313, The Federmann Center for the Study of Rationality, the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.
  17. Crawford, Vincent P & Haller, Hans, 1990. "Learning How to Cooperate: Optimal Play in Repeated Coordination Games," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(3), pages 571-95, May.
  18. Bellemare, Charles & Shearer, Bruce S., 2006. "Sorting, Incentives and Risk Preferences: Evidence from a Field Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 2227, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  19. Costa-Gomes, Miguel & Zauner, Klaus G., 2001. "Ultimatum Bargaining Behavior in Israel, Japan, Slovenia, and the United States: A Social Utility Analysis," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 34(2), pages 238-269, February.
  20. Charness, Gary B, 2004. "Attribution And Reciprocity In An Experimental Labor Market," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt8rp6b18c, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  21. Charles Bellemare & Sabine Kröger & Arthur van Soest, 2008. "Measuring Inequity Aversion in a Heterogeneous Population Using Experimental Decisions and Subjective Probabilities," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 76(4), pages 815-839, 07.
  22. John B Van Huyck & Raymond C Battalio & Richard O Beil, 1997. "Tacit coordination games, strategic uncertainty, and coordination failure," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1225, David K. Levine.
  23. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., . "A theory of fairness, competition, and cooperation," Chapters in Economics, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  24. Charness, Gary B & Rabin, Matthew, 2001. "Understanding Social Preferences With Simple Tests," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt0dc3k4m5, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  25. Dirk Engelmann & Martin Strobel, 2004. "Inequality Aversion, Efficiency, and Maximin Preferences in Simple Distribution Experiments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 857-869, September.
  26. Antonio Cabrales & Antoni Calvó-Armengol & Nicola Pavoni, 2008. "Social Preferences, Skill Segregation, and Wage Dynamics," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 75(1), pages 65-98.
  27. Cabrales, Antonio & Calvó-Armengol, Antoni, 2007. "Interdependent preferences and segregating equilibria," UC3M Working papers. Economics we072313, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Departamento de Economía.
  28. Agell, Jonas & Lundborg, Per, 1995. " Theories of Pay and Unemployment: Survey Evidence from Swedish Manufacturing Firms," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 97(2), pages 295-307, June.
  29. Alan S. Blinder & Don H. Choi, 1989. "A Shred of Evidence on Theories of Wage Stickiness," NBER Working Papers 3105, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  30. Bewley, Truman F, 1995. "A Depressed Labor Market as Explained by Participants," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(2), pages 250-54, May.
  31. Afriat, Sidney N, 1972. "Efficiency Estimation of Production Function," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 13(3), pages 568-98, October.
  32. Michael Kosfeld & Ferdinand A. von Siemens, 2009. "Worker Self-Selection and the Profits from Cooperation," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 7(2-3), pages 573-582, 04-05.
  33. Carl M. Campbell III & Kunal S. Kamlani, 1997. "The Reasons for Wage Rigidity: Evidence from a Survey of Firms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(3), pages 759-789.
  34. John B. Van Huyck & Raymond C. Battalio & Richard O. Beil, 1991. "Strategic Uncertainty, Equilibrium Selection, and Coordination Failure in Average Opinion Games," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(3), pages 885-910.
  35. Michael Kremer, 1993. "The O-Ring Theory of Economic Development," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(3), pages 551-575.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is featured on the following reading lists or Wikipedia pages:

  1. Social Preferences and Strategic Uncertainty: An Experiment on Markets and Contracts (AER 2010) in ReplicationWiki

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:fda:fdaddt:2009-09. 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: (Carmen Arias)

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.