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How Social Reputation Networks Interact with Competition in Anonymous Online Trading: An Experimental Study

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  • Gary E Bolton
  • Claudia Loebbecke
  • Axel Ockenfels

Abstract

Many Internet markets rely on ‘feedback systems’, essentially social networks of reputation, to facilitate trust and trustworthiness in anonymous transactions. Market competition creates incentives that arguably may enhance or curb the effectiveness of these systems. We investigate how different forms of market competition and social reputation networks interact in a series of laboratory online markets, where sellers face a moral hazard. We find that competition in strangers networks (where market encounters are one-shot) most frequently enhances trust and trustworthiness, and always increases total gains-from-trade. One reason is that information about reputation trumps pricing in the sense that traders usually do not conduct business with someone having a bad reputation not even for a substantial price discount. We also find that a reliable reputation network can largely reduce the advantage of partners networks (where a buyer and a seller can maintain repeated exchange with each other) in promoting trust and trustworthiness if the market is sufficiently competitive. We conclude that, overall, competitive online markets have more effective social reputation networks.

Suggested Citation

  • Gary E Bolton & Claudia Loebbecke & Axel Ockenfels, 2007. "How Social Reputation Networks Interact with Competition in Anonymous Online Trading: An Experimental Study," Working Paper Series in Economics 32, University of Cologne, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:kls:series:0032
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1999. "A Theory of Fairness, Competition, and Cooperation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 817-868.
    2. Gary E. Bolton & Elena Katok & Axel Ockenfels, 2004. "How Effective Are Electronic Reputation Mechanisms? An Experimental Investigation," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 50(11), pages 1587-1602, November.
    3. 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.
    4. John G. Riley, 2001. "Silver Signals: Twenty-Five Years of Screening and Signaling," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 39(2), pages 432-478, June.
    5. Kreps, David M. & Wilson, Robert, 1982. "Reputation and imperfect information," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 253-279, August.
    6. Richard L. Daft & Robert H. Lengel, 1986. "Organizational Information Requirements, Media Richness and Structural Design," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 32(5), pages 554-571, May.
    7. Gefen, David & Straub, Detmar W., 2004. "Consumer trust in B2C e-Commerce and the importance of social presence: experiments in e-Products and e-Services," Omega, Elsevier, vol. 32(6), pages 407-424, December.
    8. Davidson, Russell & MacKinnon, James G., 1993. "Estimation and Inference in Econometrics," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195060119.
    9. 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.
    10. George A. Akerlof, 1970. "The Market for "Lemons": Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 84(3), pages 488-500.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D44 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Auctions
    • L14 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Transactional Relationships; Contracts and Reputation

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