A Man of His Word? An Experiment on Gender Differences in Promise Keeping
33 Pages Posted: 23 Feb 2018
Date Written: February 14, 2018
Promises and expectations play an important role in strategic environments, since cooperation often requires individuals to rely on informal commitments. Indeed, numerous experiments have already shown that promises are more than cheap talk. The motives for promise keeping are rooted in social preferences, which have been demonstrated to differ for men and women. This paper systematically investigates gender differences in promise keeping based on the experimental design of Vanberg (2008). In particular, I analyze the behavior of men and women in mixed and single gender interactions and additionally elicit social preferences. I find no gender differences in the likelihood of giving promises, but promises raise expectations of women more than those of men. Consistent with this, women keep promises more often than men, although both, men and women, anticipate that a promise raises expectations on the part of its receiver. Moreover, the experiment reveals a gender difference in the motivation for promise keeping. For men, a promise seems to be a binding commitment only to a specific individual, while for women both, their own promise as well as the expectations of the receivers, matter. The importance of gender-specific reactions to given promises is corroborated by the fact that without having given a promise, cooperative behavior of men and women does not differ.
Keywords: promises, beliefs, gender economics, social values
JEL Classification: A13, D8, J16
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation