Towards a Behavioral Theory of Contract: Experimental Evidence of Consent, Compliance, Promise and Performance

108 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2009 Last revised: 1 Jun 2010

Zev J. Eigen

Littler Mendelson

Date Written: August 3, 2009

Abstract

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.

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, promise

Suggested Citation

Eigen, Zev J., Towards a Behavioral Theory of Contract: Experimental Evidence of Consent, Compliance, Promise and Performance (August 3, 2009). CELS 2009 4th Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1443549 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1443549

Zev J. Eigen (Contact Author)

Littler Mendelson

2049 Century Park E
Suite 500
Los Angeles, CA 90067
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.littler.com/people/dr-zev-j-eigen

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