Comment on Promises and Partnership

Comment on Promises and Partnership

Date: 2011-04-11

By: Cary Deck

Maroš Servátka

Steven Tucker (University of Canterbury)


Charness and Dufwenberg (2006) find that promises increase cooperation and suggest that the behavior of subjects in their experiment is driven by guilt aversion. By modifying the procedures to include a double blind social distance protocol we test an alternative explanation that promise keeping was due to external influence and reputational concerns. Our data are statistically indistinguishable from those of Charness and Dufwenberg and therefore provide strong evidence that their observed effects regarding the impact of communication are due to internal factors and not due to an outside bystander.

Keywords: Experiment; promises; partnership; guilt aversion; psychological game theory; trust; lies; social distance; behavioral economics; hidden action

JEL: C70


Battigalli, P. and M. Dufwenberg (2007) “Guilt in Games,” American Economic Review Papers & Proceedings, 97(2), 170-76.

Battigalli, P. and M. Dufwenberg (2008) “Dynamic Psychological Games,” Journal of Economic Theory, 144(1), 1-35.

Berg, J., J. Dickhaut, and K. McCabe (1995) “Trust, Reciprocity and Social History,” Games and Economic Behavior, 10 (1), 122-42.

Charness, G. and M. Dufwenberg (2006) “Promises and Partnership,” Econometrica 74(6), 1579-1601.

Cox, J.C. (2004) “How to Identify Trust and Reciprocity” Games and Economic Behavior, 46 (2), 260-81.

Cox, J. C. (2009) “Trust and Reciprocity: Implications of Game Triads and Social Contexts,” New Zealand Economic Papers. Special Issue: Laboratory Experiments in Economics, Finance and Political Science, 43(2), 89 – 104.