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The Behavioralist Meets the Market: Measuring Social Preferences and Reputation Effects in Actual Transactions

  • John A. List

The role of the market in mitigating and mediating various forms of behavior is perhaps the central issue facing behavioral economics today. This study designs a field experiment that is explicitly linked to a controlled laboratory experiment to examine whether, and to what extent, social preferences influence outcomes in actual market transactions. While agents drawn from a well-functioning marketplace behave in accord with social preference models in tightly controlled laboratory experiments, when observed in their naturally occurring settings their behavior approaches what is predicted by self-interest theory. In the limit, much of the observed behavior in the marketplace that is consistent with social preferences is due to reputational concerns: suppliers who expect to have future interactions with buyers provide higher product quality only when the buyer can verify quality via a third-party certifier. The data also speak to theories of how reputation effects enhance market performance. In particular, reputation and the monitoring of quality are found to be complements, and findings suggest that the private market can solve the lemons problem through third party verification.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w11616.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11616.

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Date of creation: Sep 2005
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Publication status: published as John A. List, 2006. "The Behavioralist Meets the Market: Measuring Social Preferences and Reputation Effects in Actual Transactions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(1), pages 1-37, February.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11616
Note: PE
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  1. Gary Charness & Matthew Rabin, 2002. "Understanding Social Preferences With Simple Tests," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(3), pages 817-869, August.
  2. Falk, Armin & Fischbacher, Urs, 2006. "A theory of reciprocity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 54(2), pages 293-315, February.
  3. John A. List, 2004. "The Nature and Extent of Discrimination in the Marketplace: Evidence from the Field," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(1), pages 49-89, February.
  4. Charness, Gary & Frechette, Guillaume R & Kagel, John H, 2002. "How Robust is Laboratory Gift Exchange?," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt8qq4k3ph, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  5. John List, 2001. "Do explicit warnings eliminate the hypothetical bias in elicitation procedures? Evidence from field auctions for sportscards," Framed Field Experiments 00163, The Field Experiments Website.
  6. Miller, Ross M. & Plott, Charles R., . "Product Quality Signaling in Experimental Markets," Working Papers 447, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  7. Georg Kirchsteiger & Ernst Fehr & Simon Gächter, 1997. "Reciprocity as a contract enforcement device: experimental evidence," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/5911, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  8. Falk, Armin, 2004. "Charitable Giving as a Gift Exchange: Evidence From a Field Experiment," CEPR Discussion Papers 4189, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Ernst Fehr & John A. List, 2004. "THE HIDDEN COSTS AND RETURNS OF INCENTIVES — TRUST AND TRUSTWORTHINESS AMONG CEOs," Labor and Demography 0409012, EconWPA.
  10. John A. List & Robert P. Berrens & Alok K. Bohara & Joe Kerkvliet, 2004. "Examining the Role of Social Isolation on Stated Preferences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 741-752, June.
  11. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gaechter, . "Fairness and Retaliation: The Economics of Reciprocitys," IEW - Working Papers 040, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  12. John List, 2004. "Neoclassical theory versus prospect theory: Evidence from the marketplace," Framed Field Experiments 00174, The Field Experiments Website.
  13. Holt, Charles A & Sherman, Roger, 1990. "Advertising and Product Quality in Posted-Offer Experiments," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 28(1), pages 39-56, January.
  14. Ginger Zhe Jin & Andrew Kato & John A. List, 2010. "That'S News To Me! Information Revelation In Professional Certification Markets," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 48(1), pages 104-122, 01.
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  17. Alan S. Blinder & Don H. Choi, 1989. "A Shred of Evidence on Theories of Wage Stickiness," NBER Working Papers 3105, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  20. Fehr, Ernst & Kirchsteiger, George & Riedl, Arno, 1993. "Does Fairness Prevent Market Clearing? An Experimental Investigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 108(2), pages 437-59, May.
  21. Martin Brown & Armin Falk & Ernst Fehr, 2004. "Relational Contracts and the Nature of Market Interactions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(3), pages 747-780, 05.
  22. John List, 2004. "Testing neoclassical competitive theory in multi-lateral decentralized markets," Framed Field Experiments 00176, The Field Experiments Website.
  23. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gachter & Georg Kirchsteiger, 2001. "Reciprocity as a Contract Enforcement Device," Levine's Working Paper Archive 563824000000000143, David K. Levine.
  24. 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.
  25. Akerlof, George A & Yellen, Janet L, 1988. "Fairness and Unemployment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(2), pages 44-49, May.
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  36. R. Lynn Hannan & John H. Kagel & Donald V. Moser, 2002. "Partial Gift Exchange in an Experimental Labor Market: Impact of Subject Population Differences, Productivity Differences, and Effort Requests on Behavior," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(4), pages 923-951, October.
  37. Berg Joyce & Dickhaut John & McCabe Kevin, 1995. "Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 122-142, July.
  38. Hoffman, Elizabeth & McCabe, Kevin & Smith, Vernon L, 1996. "Social Distance and Other-Regarding Behavior in Dictator Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 653-60, June.
  39. L. Wade, 1988. "Review," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 58(1), pages 99-100, July.
  40. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard, 1986. "Fairness as a Constraint on Profit Seeking: Entitlements in the Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 728-41, September.
  41. Akerlof, George A & Yellen, Janet L, 1990. "The Fair Wage-Effort Hypothesis and Unemployment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(2), pages 255-83, May.
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