Promises, Expectations & Causation

19 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2018

See all articles by Giovanni Di Bartolomeo

Giovanni Di Bartolomeo

Sapienza University of Rome, Department of Economics and Law

Martin Dufwenberg

University of Arizona - Department of Economics

Stefano Papa

University of Rome I

Francesco Passarelli

Bocconi University

Date Written: June 1, 2018

Abstract

Promises often foster trust and cooperation. A recent literature explores why. Two explanations have been proposed, and experimental tests provided some support and some controversy:

- Charness & Dufwenberg (2006) (C&D) propose an expectation-based explanation (EBE). People are guilt averse (GA): person i feels bad if he hurts j relative to j’s expectations. A promise from i to j, then, changes j’s expectation and i does not renege because he would feel guilty if he did.

- Vanberg (2008) proposes a commitment-based explanation (CBE) whereby “people have a preference for promise keeping per se” (p. 1468).

EBE thus combines GA with the idea (not implied by GA) that promises shape beliefs. CBE instead posits that promises have a direct causal effect on promise keeping because people have an intrinsic motivation to keep their word. The empirical implications of these two theories are substantially different.

Keywords: Promises, expectations, guilt aversion, moral commitment, causation

JEL Classification: A13, C91, D03, D64

Suggested Citation

Di Bartolomeo, Giovanni and Dufwenberg, Martin and Papa, Stefano and Passarelli, Francesco, Promises, Expectations & Causation (June 1, 2018). BAFFI CAREFIN Centre Research Paper No. 2018-81, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3202143 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3202143

Giovanni Di Bartolomeo

Sapienza University of Rome, Department of Economics and Law ( email )

via Castro del Laurenziano 9
Roma, 00191
Italy

Martin Dufwenberg

University of Arizona - Department of Economics ( email )

McClelland Hall
Tucson, AZ 85721-0108
United States

Stefano Papa

University of Rome I ( email )

Piazzale Aldo Moro, 5
Rome, 00185
Italy

Francesco Passarelli (Contact Author)

Bocconi University ( email )

Via Sarfatti, 25
Milan, MI 20136
Italy

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