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Reciprocity and status in a virtual field experiment

TitleReciprocity and status in a virtual field experiment
Publication TypeUnpublished
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsNicklisch, A., & Salz T.
Series TitlePreprints of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods
CityBonn, Germany
KeywordsField experiment, gift-exchange, reciprocity, status, Virtual world

This article reports on a field study that has been conducted in the online computer game World of Warcraft. In a basic labor situation a principal gives an upfront wage to an agent (who is un-aware that he is participating in an experiment) and asks him to conduct a real-effort task. The unique characteristic of the virtual world allows us to control for agents’ abilities to perform the task and to manipulate the principal’s social status. Confirming gift exchange theory, generous wages indeed increase agents’ efforts, even controlling for agents’ abilities, while the principals’ social status influences effort provision probability substantially. We interpret this result such that agents assess the kindness of the wages with respect to the expected principals’ wealth.