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Promises, Threats and Fairness

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Abstract

We present experimental evidence that promises and threats mitigate the hold-up problem. While investors rely as much on their own threats as on their trading partner's promises, the latter are more credible. Building on recent work in psychology and behavioural economics, we then present a simple model within which agents are concerned about both fairness and consistency. The model can account for several of our experimental findings. Its most striking implication is that fairmindedness strengthens the credibility of promises to behave fairly, but weakens the credibility of threats to punish unfair behaviour.

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