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Guilt from Promise-Breaking and Trust in Markets for Expert Services: Theory and Experiment

  • Beck, Adrian


    (University of Innsbruck)

  • Kerschbamer, Rudolf


    (University of Innsbruck)

  • Qiu, Jianying


    (University of Innsbruck)

  • Sutter, Matthias


    (University of Cologne)

We examine the influence of guilt and trust on the performance of credence goods markets. An expert can make a promise to a consumer first, whereupon the consumer can express her trust by paying an interaction price before the expert’s provision and charging decisions. We argue that the expert’s promise induces a commitment that triggers guilt if the promise is broken, and guilt is exacerbated by higher interaction prices. An experiment qualitatively confirms our predictions: (1) most experts make the predicted promise; (2) proper promises induce consumer-friendly behavior; and (3) higher interaction prices increase the commitment value of proper promises.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 4827.

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Length: 50 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4827
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  3. 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.
  4. Dulleck, Uwe & Rudolf, Kerschbamer & Matthias, Sutter, 2009. "The Economics of Credence Goods: On the Role of Liability, Verifiability, Reputation and Competition," Working Papers in Economics 348, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
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  8. Axel Ockenfels & Gary E. Bolton, 2000. "ERC: A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 166-193, March.
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  12. Darby, Michael R & Karni, Edi, 1973. "Free Competition and the Optimal Amount of Fraud," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 16(1), pages 67-88, April.
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  15. Gary Charness & Martin Dufwenberg, 2004. "Promises and Partnership," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000001, UCLA Department of Economics.
  16. Charness, Gary B & Dufwenberg, Martin, 2006. "Promises & Partnership," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt0127h86v, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  17. Brandts, Jordi & Holt, Charles A, 1992. "An Experimental Test of Equilibrium Dominance in Signaling Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(5), pages 1350-65, December.
  18. Tore Ellingsen & Magnus Johannesson, 2004. "Promises, Threats and Fairness," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(495), pages 397-420, 04.
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  20. Ernst Fehr & Georg Kirchsteiger & Arno Riedl, 1993. "Does Fairness Prevent Market Clearing? An Experimental Investigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(2), pages 437-459.
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