Towards a Behavioral Theory of Contract: Experimental Evidence of Consent, Compliance, Promise and Performance
Zev J. Eigen
Northwestern University School of Law
August 3, 2009
CELS 2009 4th Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Paper
In spite of their ubiquity and theorized importance for ensuring compliance with terms of negotiated exchanges, contracts have been empirically understudied. This study opens the black box of contract and conducts an online experiment involving 1,860 participants to assess the effects of contractual obligation on compliance. The experiment varies how consent is experienced and how demands to continue to perform are framed (moral, instrumental, legal and social) to test the effects on performance of an undesirable task. Results suggest that seeing and choosing terms during the consent phase, and morally framing demands to continue to perform in the post-agreement phase elicit the greatest likelihood of compliance as compared to other means examined. Implications for contract-governed exchanges are discussed.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 108
Keywords: obedience, promise, performance, consent, contract, form-adhesive, power, dependence, organizations, exchange, experiment, EULA, end user license agreement, agreement, law, capitalism, cooperation, negotiation, reciprocity, internet, license, adhesion, fraud, morality, moral, compliance, promiseworking papers series
Date posted: August 7, 2009 ; Last revised: June 1, 2010
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