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A Theory of Reciprocity

  • Armin Falk
  • Urs Fischbacher

This paper presents a formal theory of reciprocity. Reciprocity means that people reward kind actions and punish unkind ones. The theory takes into account that people evaluate the kindness of an action not only by its consequences but also by the intention underlying this action. The theory explains the relevant stylized facts of a wide range of experimental games. Among them are the ultimatum game, the gift-exchange game, a reduced best-shot game, the dictator game, the prisoner's dilemma, public goods games, and the investment game. Further, the theory explains why subjects behave differently in treatments where they experience the actions of real persons compared to treatments where they face 'actions' caused by a random device. Finally, the theory explains why in bilateral interactions outcomes tend to be ''fair'' whereas in competitive markets even extremely unfair distributions may arise.

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Paper provided by Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich in its series IEW - Working Papers with number 006.

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  17. McKelvey, Richard D & Palfrey, Thomas R, 1992. "An Experimental Study of the Centipede Game," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(4), pages 803-36, July.
  18. Brandts, Jordi & Sola, Carles, 2001. "Reference Points and Negative Reciprocity in Simple Sequential Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 138-157, August.
  19. Keser, Claudia & van Winden, Frans, 2000. " Conditional Cooperation and Voluntary Contributions to Public Goods," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 102(1), pages 23-39, March.
  20. Guth, Werner & Schmittberger, Rolf & Schwarze, Bernd, 1982. "An experimental analysis of ultimatum bargaining," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 367-388, December.
  21. McCabe, Kevin A. & Rigdon, Mary L. & Smith, Vernon L., 2003. "Positive reciprocity and intentions in trust games," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 267-275, October.
  22. Kreps, David M. & Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John & Wilson, Robert, 1982. "Rational cooperation in the finitely repeated prisoners' dilemma," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 245-252, August.
  23. Geanakoplos, John & Pearce, David & Stacchetti, Ennio, 1989. "Psychological games and sequential rationality," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 60-79, March.
  24. Bolton, G.E. & Brandts, J. & Ockenfels, A., 1997. "Measuring Motivations for the Reciprocal Responses Observed in a Simple Dilemma Game," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 400.97, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
  25. Eckel, Catherine C & Grossman, Philip J, 1998. "Are Women Less Selfish Than Men? Evidence from Dictator Experiments," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(448), pages 726-35, May.
  26. 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.
  27. Guth, Werner, 1995. "On ultimatum bargaining experiments -- A personal review," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 329-344, August.
  28. Forsythe Robert & Horowitz Joel L. & Savin N. E. & Sefton Martin, 1994. "Fairness in Simple Bargaining Experiments," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 347-369, May.
  29. 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.
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  31. Bolle, Friedel & Ockenfels, Peter, 1990. "Prisoners' Dilemma as a game with incomplete information," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 11(1), pages 69-84, March.
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