Promises as Commitments

CentER Discussion Paper No. 2012-064

30 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2012

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: August 27, 2012


We implement a trust game in which the trustee can write a free-form pre-play message for the trustor. The main twist in our design is that there is a 50% probability that the message is delivered to the trustor and a 50% probability that the message is replaced by an empty sheet. We find that even when messages are not delivered trustees who make a promise are significantly more likely to act trustworthy than those who do not make a promise. This suggests that a promise has a commitment value which is independent of its impact on the trustor. Interestingly, we also find that both trustees who make a promise and those who do not make a promise are more likely to be trustworthy if their message is delivered to the trustor. This means that communication increases trustworthiness irrespective of the content of messages.

Keywords: promises, communication, trust, beliefs, experimental economics

JEL Classification: C91, D03, D82, L15

Suggested Citation

Potters, Johannes (Jan) J. M. and Ismayilov, Huseyn, Promises as Commitments (August 27, 2012). CentER Discussion Paper No. 2012-064, Available at SSRN: or

Johannes (Jan) J. M. Potters (Contact Author)

Tilburg University - CentER ( email )

Department of Economics
P.O. Box 90153
5000 LE Tilburg
+31 13 466 8204 (Phone)
+31 13 466 3042 (Fax)

Huseyn Ismayilov

Tilburg University ( email )

Tilburg, Noord-Brabant

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