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Testing Theories of Reciprocity: Do Motivations Matter?

  • Luca Stanca


    (Department of Economics, University of Milan-Bicocca)

  • Luigino Bruni


    (Department of Economics, University of Milan-Bicocca)

  • Luca Corazzini


    (Department of Economics, University of Milan-Bicocca)

One of the key issues for understanding reciprocity is how people evaluate the kindness of an action. In this paper we argue that the motivation driving an action plays an important role for the reciprocating response to that action. We test experimentally the hypothesis that reciprocal behavior is stronger in response to actions driven by intrinsic motivation, as opposed to extrinsic motivation. Our results indicate that reciprocity is significantly stronger when extrinsic motivation can be ruled out, both at the aggregate and the individual level. These findings suggest that models of reciprocal behavior should take into account not only outcomes but also intentions and, in particular, motivations: the type of motivation of an action matters for its perceived kindness and, as a consequence, for reciprocity.

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Paper provided by University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 109.

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Length: 27 pages
Date of creation: 2007
Date of revision: 2007
Handle: RePEc:mib:wpaper:109
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