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Pledging, Praising and Shaming: Experimental Labour Markets in Ghana


  • Davies, Elwyn

    () (University of Oxford)

  • Fafchamps, Marcel

    () (Stanford University)


Firm surveys have shown that labour management in developing countries is often problematic. Earlier experimental research (Davies & Fafchamps, 2017) has shown that managers in Ghana are reluctant to use monetary incentives to motivate workers. This paper presents the results from a gift-exchange game experiment in Ghana in which the worker can make a promise to the employer before a contract is offered (ex ante communication) and in which the employer can send negative or positive feedback to the worker after the worker has chosen effort (ex post communication). The results indicate that feedback can help sustain cooperate behaviour (high effort provision), but only if the wage offered is high enough. Feedback reinforces reciprocity concerns on the behalf of the worker. In particular positive messages (praising) leads to higher effort provision, no significant relation between negative feedback and effort can be found. Promises are related to higher effort, but do not necessarily lead to higher wages.

Suggested Citation

  • Davies, Elwyn & Fafchamps, Marcel, 2017. "Pledging, Praising and Shaming: Experimental Labour Markets in Ghana," IZA Discussion Papers 10520, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp10520

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. David Cooper & John Lightle, 2013. "The gift of advice: communication in a bilateral gift exchange game," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 16(4), pages 443-477, December.
    2. Charness, Gary & Dufwenberg, Martin, 2003. "Promises & Partnership," Research Papers in Economics 2003:3, Stockholm University, Department of Economics.
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    8. Ernst Fehr & Armin Falk, 1999. "Wage Rigidity in a Competitive Incomplete Contract Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(1), pages 106-134, February.
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    10. David Masclet & Charles Noussair & Steven Tucker & Marie-Claire Villeval, 2003. "Monetary and Nonmonetary Punishment in the Voluntary Contributions Mechanism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 366-380, March.
    11. Abigail Barr, 2001. "Social dilemmas and shame-based sanctions: experimental results from rural Zimbabwe," CSAE Working Paper Series 2001-11, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
    12. Christoph Vanberg, 2008. "Why Do People Keep Their Promises? An Experimental Test of Two Explanations -super-1," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 76(6), pages 1467-1480, November.
    13. Gachter, Simon & Fehr, Ernst, 1999. "Collective action as a social exchange," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 39(4), pages 341-369, July.
    14. David Cooper & John Lightle, 2013. "Erratum to: The gift of advice: communication in a bilateral gift exchange game," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 16(3), pages 442-442, September.
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    18. Rege, Mari & Telle, Kjetil, 2004. "The impact of social approval and framing on cooperation in public good situations," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(7-8), pages 1625-1644, July.
    19. Elwyn Davies & Marcel Fafchamps, 2015. "When No Bad Deed Goes Punished: A Relational Contracting Experiment in Ghana," CSAE Working Paper Series 2015-08, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
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    Cited by:

    1. Elwyn Davies & Marcel Fafchamps, 2017. "When No Bad Deed Goes Punished: Relational Contracting in Ghana versus the UK," NBER Working Papers 23123, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item


    worker incentives; gift exchange; effort; worker criticism; communication;

    JEL classification:

    • C71 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Cooperative Games
    • D2 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations
    • D86 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Economics of Contract Law
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • O16 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Financial Markets; Saving and Capital Investment; Corporate Finance and Governance

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