IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Optimal contracts, adverse selection and social preferences: An experiment

  • Antonio Cabrales
  • Gary Charness

It has long been standard in agency theory to search for incentive-compatible mechanisms on the assumption that people care only about their own material wealth. However, this assumption is clearly refuted by numerous experiments, and we feel that it may be useful to consider nonpecuniary utility in mechanism design and contract theory. Accordingly, we devise an experiment to explore optimal contracts in an adverse-selection context. A principal proposes one of three contract menus, each of which offers a choice of two incentive-compatible contracts, to two agents whose types are unknown to the principal. The agents know the set of possible menus, and choose to either accept one of the two contracts offered in the proposed menu or to reject the menu altogether; a rejection by either agent leads to lower (and equal) reservation payoffs for all parties. While all three possible menus favor the principal, they do so to varying degrees. We observe numerous rejections of the more lopsided menus, and approach an equilibrium where one of the more equitable contract menus (which one depends on the reservation payoffs) is proposed and agents accept a contract, selecting actions according to their types. Behavior is largely consistent with all recent models of social preferences, strongly suggesting there is value in considering nonpecuniary utility in agency theory.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL: http://www.econ.upf.edu/docs/papers/downloads/478.pdf
File Function: Whole Paper
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra in its series Economics Working Papers with number 478.

as
in new window

Length:
Date of creation: Jun 2000
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:478
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.econ.upf.edu/

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gachter & Georg Kirchsteiger, 1997. "Reciprocity as a Contract Enforcement Device: Experimental Evidence," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(4), pages 833-860, July.
  2. Dufwenberg, M. & Lundholm, M., 1997. "Social Norms and Moral Hazard," Papers 1997-28, Uppsala - Working Paper Series.
  3. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1999. "A Theory Of Fairness, Competition, And Cooperation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(3), pages 817-868, August.
  4. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 2000. "Fairness, incentives, and contractual choices," Munich Reprints in Economics 20659, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  5. Selten, Reinhard & Abdolkarim Sadrieh & Klaus Abbink, 1995. "Money does Not Induce Risk Neutral Behavior, but Binary Lotteries Do even Worse," Discussion Paper Serie B 343, University of Bonn, Germany.
  6. Mirrlees, James A, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(114), pages 175-208, April.
  7. Werner Güth & Wolfgang Klose & Manfred Königstein & Joachim Schwalbach, 1998. "An experimental study of a dynamic principal-agent relationship," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(4-5), pages 327-341.
  8. Jensen, M.C. & Murphy, K.J., 1988. "Performance Pay And Top Management Incentives," Papers 88-04, Rochester, Business - Managerial Economics Research Center.
  9. Keser, Claudia & Willinger, Marc, 2000. "Principals' principles when agents' actions are hidden," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 163-185, January.
  10. Garen, John E, 1994. "Executive Compensation and Principal-Agent Theory," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(6), pages 1175-99, December.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:478. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.