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An Experimental Study of Asymmetric Reciprocity


  • Omar Al-Ubaydli

    () (Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science and Department of Economics, George Mason University)

  • Min Sok Lee


Do people have a stronger propensity to reward or punish? When reacting to intentions, Offerman (2002) concluded that people punish more. Using the Falk and Fischbacher (2006) model, we extend Offerman's design in two ways. First, we control for the strength of the positive/negative intentions to which an individual reacts when rewarding/punishing. Second, we can precisely compare the strength of intention- and distribution-based motives for reward/punishment. Doing so requires measuring second-order expectations of subjects' own behavior, i.e., what a subject predicts that other subjects predict that he will do. Second-order expectations can be elicited directly or they can be induced by telling a subject what others expect him to do. Under elicited second-order expectations, we find that negative reciprocity is stronger than positive reciprocity, though if we isolate the distributional motive for reciprocity, then we find that positive reciprocity is stronger than negative reciprocity. Under induced second-order expectations, positive distributional reciprocity is stronger than negative distributional reciprocity while other forms of reciprocity are equally strong.

Suggested Citation

  • Omar Al-Ubaydli & Min Sok Lee, 2008. "An Experimental Study of Asymmetric Reciprocity," Working Papers 1006, George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science, revised Jul 2008.
  • Handle: RePEc:gms:wpaper:1006

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Li, Lingfang (Ivy) & Xiao, Erte, 2010. "Money Talks? An Experimental Study of Rebate in Reputation System Design," MPRA Paper 22401, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Brandes, Leif & Franck, Egon, 2012. "Social preferences or personal career concerns? Field evidence on positive and negative reciprocity in the workplace," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 33(5), pages 925-939.
    3. Omar Al-Ubaydli & Uri Gneezy & Min Sok Lee & John A. List, 2010. "Towards an understanding of the relative strengths of positive and negative reciprocity," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 5(7), pages 524-539, December.
    4. Al-Ubaydli, Omar & Lee, Min Sok, 2012. "Do you reward and punish in the way you think others expect you to?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 336-343.
    5. 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.
    6. Adrian Bruhin & Ernst Fehr & Daniel Schunk, 2016. "The Many Faces of Human Sociality: Uncovering the Distribution and Stability of Social Preferences," Working Papers 1603, Gutenberg School of Management and Economics, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, revised 01 Feb 2016.

    More about this item


    reciprocity; reward; punishment;

    JEL classification:

    • C9 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments

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