Econometrica: Nov 2006, Volume 74, Issue 6

Promises and Partnership

https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0262.2006.00719.x
p. 1579-1601

Gary Charness, Martin Dufwenberg

We examine experimentally the impact of communication on trust and cooperation. Our design admits observation of promises, lies, and beliefs. The evidence is consistent with people striving to live up to others' expectations so as to avoid guilt, as can be modeled using psychological game theory. When players exhibit such , communication may influence motivation and behavior by influencing beliefs about beliefs. Promises may enhance trustworthy behavior, which is what we observe. We argue that guilt aversion may be relevant for understanding strategic interaction in a variety of settings, and that it may shed light on the role of language, discussions, agreements, and social norms in these contexts.

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