Journal of Economic Interaction and Coordination

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 595–611 | Cite as

The effect of communication channels on promise-making and promise-keeping: experimental evidence

  • Julian Conrads
  • Tommaso ReggianiEmail author
Regular Article


In modern organizations, new communication channels are reshaping the way in which people get in touch, interact and cooperate. This paper, adopting an experimental economics framework, investigates the effect of different communication channels on promise-making and promise-keeping in an organizational context. Inspired by Ellingsen and Johannesson (Econ J 114:397–420, 2004), five experimental treatments differ with respect to the communication channel employed to solicit a promise of cooperation, i.e., face-to-face, phone call, chat room, and two different sorts of computer-mediated communication. The more direct and synchronous (face-to-face, phone, chat room) the interpersonal interaction is, the higher the propensity of an agent to make a promise. Treatment effects, however, vanish if we then look at the actual promise-keeping rates across treatments, as more indirect channels (computer-mediated) do not perform statistically worse than the direct and synchronous channels.


Promises Communication Helping Experimental economics Organizational behavior 

JEL Classification

D02 D83 C91 



We thank Katrin Recktenwald for excellent research assistantship; Michele Belot, Luigino Bruni, Giovanni Ferri, Bernd Irlenbusch, Patrick Kampkotter, Andrew Kinder, Pierluigi Murro, Rainer Michael Rilke, Matteo Rizzolli, Alessandro Saia, Rupert Sausgruber, Dirk Sliwka, Robert Slonim, Janna Ter Meer, Serena Trucchi, the Associate Editor and two anonymous referees for comments and valuable advice. Moreover, we thank Jeannette Brosig-Koch and Jan Siebert from the experimental laboratory ‘elfe’ at the University Duisburg-Essen for letting us run the experimental sessions. This research project is financially supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft through grant FOR 1371—University of Cologne “Design and Behavior: Economic Engineering of Firms and Markets.”


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CologneCologneGermany
  2. 2.LUMSA UniversityRomeItaly
  3. 3.IZABonnGermany

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