Promises, Expectations, and Social Cooperation

Harvard Law School John M. Olin Center Discussion Paper No. 887

UCLA School of Law, Law-Econ Research Paper No. 16-16

44 Pages Posted: 24 Oct 2016 Last revised: 19 May 2019

See all articles by Dorothee Mischkowski

Dorothee Mischkowski

University of Goettingen (Gottingen)

Rebecca Stone

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law

Alexander Stremitzer

ETH Zurich

Date Written: March 4, 2019

Abstract

Promising serves as an important commitment mechanism by operating on a potential cheater's internal value system. We present experimental evidence on why people keep their promises identifying three motives. First, people feel duty-bound to keep their promises regardless of whether promisees expect them to do so (promising per se effect). Second, they care about not disappointing promisees' Â’expectations, regardless of whether those expectations were induced by the promise (expectations per se effect). Third, they are even more motivated to avoid disappointing promisees'Â’ expectations when those expectations were induced by a promise (interaction effect). Clear evidence of some of these effects has eluded the prior literature due to limitations inherent to the experimental methods employed. We sidestep those difficulties by using a novel between-subject vignette design. Our results also shed light on how promising may contribute to the self-reinforcing creation of trust as expectations of performance encourage promise-keeping and vice versa.

Keywords: Cooperation, promises, expectations, trust, guilt aversion

JEL Classification: A13, D03, D64, C91, K12

Suggested Citation

Mischkowski, Dorothee and Stone, Rebecca and Stremitzer, Alexander, Promises, Expectations, and Social Cooperation (March 4, 2019). Harvard Law School John M. Olin Center Discussion Paper No. 887; UCLA School of Law, Law-Econ Research Paper No. 16-16. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2856564

Dorothee Mischkowski

University of Goettingen (Gottingen) ( email )

Gosslerstrasse 14
Gottingen, D-37073
Germany

Rebecca Stone (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law ( email )

385 Charles E. Young Dr. East
Room 1242
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476
United States

Alexander Stremitzer

ETH Zurich ( email )

Haldeneggsteig 4
Zurich, 8092
Switzerland
+41 (44) 632 40 08 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.lawecon.ethz.ch/people/stremitzer.html

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