Contracts as Reference Points-Experimental Evidence


Hart, Oliver, Ernst Fehr, and Christian Zehnder. 2011. “Contracts as Reference Points-Experimental Evidence.” American Economic Review 101 (2): 493-525.
aer-2011816 KB


Hart and John Moore (2008) introduce new behavioral assumptions that can explain long-term contracts and the employment relation. We examine experimentally their idea that contracts serve as ref- erence points. The evidence confirms the prediction that there is a trade-off between rigidity and flexibility. Flexible contracts—which would dominate rigid contracts under standard assumptions—cause significant shading in ex post performance, while under rigid con- tracts much less shading occurs. The experiment appears to reveal a new behavioral force: ex ante competition legitimizes the terms of a contract, and aggrievement and shading occur mainly about out- comes within the contract.

Last updated on 03/19/2013