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Exploring Image Motivation in Promise Keeping - An Experimental Investigation

Kevin Grubiak
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Kevin Grubiak: University of East Anglia

No 19-02, Working Paper series, University of East Anglia, Centre for Behavioural and Experimental Social Science (CBESS) from School of Economics, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK.

Abstract: This paper reports an experiment designed to investigate the role of image concerns in promise keeping. The task employed allows to shed light on the relevance of both social -image and self -image concerns. Whereas in the former case, behavior is expected to depend on how others perceive a given action, in the latter case what matters is how actions reflect on a decision-maker’s self -perception. We observe strong evidence of social-image concerns in treatments which feature ex-ante opportunities for promise exchange. Ruling out alternative explanations, our results are consistent with subjects exhibiting an aversion to being perceived as a promise breaker by others. Surprisingly, subjects seem not to anticipate social-image concerns to be present in others. Our test of self-image concerns yields a null result: there is no evidence suggesting that subjects in our experiment engaged in self-deception to evade their promise-induced commitments. This resilience can be interpreted as corroborating evidence of the strength of promises. Our results shed light on the conditions under which promises can be expected to facilitate successful relationships based on trust.

Keywords: Trust; Communication; Promises; Image Concerns; Beliefs (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C91 D03 D82 D83 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019-05
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-bec, nep-cbe, nep-exp and nep-soc
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