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How Effective are Electronic Reputation Mechanisms? An Experimental Investigation

  • Gary E. Bolton
  • Elena Katok
  • Axel Ockenfels

Electronic reputation or "feedback" mechanisms aim to mitigate the moral hazard problems associated with exchange among strangers by providing the type of information available in more traditional close-knit groups, where members are frequently involved in one another's dealings. In this paper, we compare trading in a market with online feedback (as implemented by many Internet markets) to a market without feedback, as well as to a market in which the same people interact with one another repeatedly (partners market). We find that, while the feedback mechanism induces quite a substantial improvement in transaction efficiency, it also exhibits a kind of public goods problem in that, unlike in the partners market, the benefits of trust and trustworthy behavior go to the whole community and are not completely internalized. We discuss the implications of this perspective for improving feedback systems.

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Paper provided by University of Cologne, Department of Economics in its series Working Paper Series in Economics with number 3.

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Date of creation: 26 Nov 2003
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Management Science, Vol. 50, Number 11, Nov. 2004, 1587-1602
Handle: RePEc:kls:series:0003
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  1. Claudia Keser, 2002. "Trust and Reputation Building in E-Commerce," CIRANO Working Papers 2002s-75, CIRANO.
  2. David Kreps & Paul Milgrom & John Roberts & Bob Wilson, 2010. "Rational Cooperation in the Finitely Repeated Prisoners' Dilemma," Levine's Working Paper Archive 239, David K. Levine.
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  5. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1999. "A theory of fairness, competition, and cooperation," Munich Reprints in Economics 20650, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  6. Chrysanthos Dellarocas, 2003. "The Digitization of Word of Mouth: Promise and Challenges of Online Feedback Mechanisms," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 49(10), pages 1407-1424, October.
  7. Greif, Avner, 1989. "Reputation and Coalitions in Medieval Trade: Evidence on the Maghribi Traders," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(04), pages 857-882, December.
  8. Bengt Holmström, 1999. "Managerial Incentive Problems: A Dynamic Perspective," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(1), pages 169-182.
  9. Douglas W. Diamond, 1998. "Reputation Acquisition in Debt Markets," Levine's Working Paper Archive 602, David K. Levine.
  10. Dellarocas, Chrysanthos, 2003. "The Digitization of Word-of-mouth: Promise and Challenges of Online Feedback Mechanisms," Working papers 4296-03, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  11. Bengt Holmstrom, 1999. "Managerial Incentive Problems: A Dynamic Perspective," NBER Working Papers 6875, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Paul Resnick & Christopher Avery & Richard Zeckhauser, 1999. "The Market for Evaluations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(3), pages 564-584, June.
  13. Glenn Ellison, 1994. "Cooperation in the Prisoner's Dilemma with Anonymous Random Matching," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 61(3), pages 567-588.
  14. Selten, Reinhard, 1998. "Features of experimentally observed bounded rationality," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(3-5), pages 413-436, May.
  15. Paul R. Milgrom & Douglass C. North & Barry R. Weingast, 1990. "The Role Of Institutions In The Revival Of Trade: The Law Merchant, Private Judges, And The Champagne Fairs," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 2(1), pages 1-23, 03.
  16. 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.
  17. Erik Brynjolfsson & Michael D. Smith, 2000. "Frictionless Commerce? A Comparison of Internet and Conventional Retailers," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 46(4), pages 563-585, April.
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