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Subjective performance evaluations and reciprocity in principal-agent relations

  • Alexander Sebald


  • Markus Walzl


We conduct a laboratory experiment with agents working on and principals benefitting from a real effort task in which the agents' performance can only be evaluated subjectively. Principals give subjective performance feedback to agents and agents have an opportunity to sanction principals. In contrast to existing models of reciprocity we find that agents tend to sanction whenever the feedback of principals is below their subjective self-evaluations even if agents' payoffs are independent of it. In turn, principals provide more positive feedback (relative to their actual performance assessment of the agent) if this does not affect their payoffs.

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Paper provided by Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck in its series Working Papers with number 2012-15.

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Length: 43
Date of creation: Aug 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:inn:wpaper:2012-15
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  1. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1999. "A theory of fairness, competition, and cooperation," Munich Reprints in Economics 20650, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  2. Breuer, Kathrin & Nieken, Petra & Sliwka, Dirk, 2010. "Social Ties and Subjective Performance Evaluations: An Empirical Investigation," IZA Discussion Papers 4913, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Ellingsen, Tore & Johannesson, Magnus, 2006. "Pride and Prejudice: The Human Side of Incentive Theory," CEPR Discussion Papers 5768, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Ernst Fehr & John A. List, 2004. "The Hidden Costs and Returns of Incentives-Trust and Trustworthiness Among CEOs," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 2(5), pages 743-771, 09.
  5. Uri Gneezy, 2005. "Deception: The Role of Consequences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 384-394, March.
  6. Sebald, Alexander & Walzl, Markus, 2015. "Optimal contracts based on subjective performance evaluations and reciprocity," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 62-76.
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