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Do managers reciprocate? Field experimental evidence from a competitive market

Listed author(s):
  • Michel Marechal
  • Christian Thoni

A substantive amount of lab experimental evidence suggests that the norm of reciprocity has important economic consequences. However, it is unclear whether the norm of reciprocity survives in a natural and competitive environment with experienced agents. For this purpose we analyze data from a natural field experiment conducted with sales representatives who were instructed to randomly distribute product samples as gifts to their business partners. We find that distributing gifts to store managers boosts sales revenue substantially, which is consistent with the notion of reciprocity. However, the results underline that the nature of the relationship between market participants crucially affects the prevalence of reciprocal behavior.

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Paper provided by The Field Experiments Website in its series Natural Field Experiments with number 00310.

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Date of creation: 2007
Handle: RePEc:feb:natura:00310
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.fieldexperiments.com

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  1. Charles Bellemare, 2007. "Gift exchange within a firm: Evidence from a field experiment," Natural Field Experiments 00215, The Field Experiments Website.
  2. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gachter & Georg Kirchsteiger, 1997. "Reciprocity as a Contract Enforcement Device: Experimental Evidence," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(4), pages 833-860, July.
  3. Heike Hennig-Schmidt & Bettina Rockenbach & Abdolkarim Sadrieh, 2010. "In Search Of Workers' Real Effort Reciprocity-A Field and a Laboratory Experiment," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 8(4), pages 817-837, 06.
  4. Craig E. Landry & Andreas Lange & John A. List & Michael K. Price & Nicholas G. Rupp, 2006. "Toward an Understanding of the Economics of Charity: Evidence from a Field Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(2), pages 747-782.
  5. John A. List & David Lucking-Reiley, 2002. "The Effects of Seed Money and Refunds on Charitable Giving: Experimental Evidence from a University Capital Campaign," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(1), pages 215-233, February.
  6. John A. List, 2006. "The Behavioralist Meets the Market: Measuring Social Preferences and Reputation Effects in Actual Transactions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(1), pages 1-37, February.
  7. Glenn W. Harrison & John A. List, 2004. "Field Experiments," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(4), pages 1009-1055, December.
  8. Ernst Fehr & Alexander Klein & Klaus M Schmidt, 2007. "Fairness and Contract Design," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(1), pages 121-154, 01.
  9. Charness, Gary & Haruvy, Ernan & Sonsino, Doron, 2007. "Social distance and reciprocity: An Internet experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 63(1), pages 88-103, May.
  10. Jeffrey P. Carpenter, 2005. "Endogenous Social Preferences," Review of Radical Political Economics, Union for Radical Political Economics, vol. 37(1), pages 63-84, March.
  11. George A. Akerlof, 1982. "Labor Contracts as Partial Gift Exchange," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 97(4), pages 543-569.
  12. Hoffman, Elizabeth & McCabe, Kevin & Smith, Vernon L, 1996. "Social Distance and Other-Regarding Behavior in Dictator Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 653-660, June.
  13. Irlenbusch, Bernd & Sliwka, Dirk, 2005. "Incentives, Decision Frames, and Motivation Crowding Out – An Experimental Investigation," IZA Discussion Papers 1758, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  14. Catherine Eckel, 2005. "Subsidizing Charitable Contributions: A Field Test Comparing Matching and Rebate Subsidies," Working Papers 2098, The Field Experiments Website.
  15. Bruno S. Frey & Stephan Meier, 2004. "Social Comparisons and Pro-social Behavior: Testing "Conditional Cooperation" in a Field Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1717-1722, December.
  16. Samuel Bowles, 1998. "Endogenous Preferences: The Cultural Consequences of Markets and Other Economic Institutions," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(1), pages 75-111, March.
  17. 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.
  18. Puppe Clemens & Sebastian Kube & Michel Marechal, 2006. "Putting reciprocity to work - positive versus negative responses in the field," Natural Field Experiments 00291, The Field Experiments Website.
  19. Fehr, Ernst, et al, 1998. "When Social Norms Overpower Competition: Gift Exchange in Experimental Labor Markets," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 16(2), pages 324-351, April.
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