Promises and partnership

Gary Charness, Martin Dufwenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

836 Scopus citations


We examine experimentally the impact of communication on trust and cooperation. Our design admits observation of promises, lies, and beliefs. The evidence is consistent with people striving to live up to others' expectations so as to avoid guilt, as can be modeled using psychological game theory. When players exhibit such guilt aversion, communication may influence motivation and behavior by influencing beliefs about beliefs. Promises may enhance trustworthy behavior, which is what we observe. We argue that guilt aversion may be relevant for understanding strategic interaction in a variety of settings, and that it may shed light on the role of language, discussions, agreements, and social norms in these contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1579-1601
Number of pages23
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2006


  • Behavioral economics
  • Beliefs
  • Guilt aversion
  • Hidden action
  • Lies
  • Partnership
  • Promises
  • Psychological game theory
  • Social preferences
  • Trust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics


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