Prof. Dr. Vincent Mak, Judge Business School – University of Cambridge will talk about “The Effect of Commitment Timing on Reciprocity.


Through a series of experiments in several countries, we show that reciprocity is significantly weakened if commitment on the level of reciprocation is made before (vs. after) receiving a benefit. This effect holds even when there is minimal uncertainty regarding the value and delivery of the benefit. In two field experiments and a laboratory experiment, pay-what-you-want amounts decreased when consumers committed on their payments before (vs. after) receiving a diverse range of benefits. In addition, two online trust-game experiments showed that a framing manipulation can mitigate the effect; they also provided evidence for a psychological mechanism based on biased information processing. Our work sheds important insights into the psychology of reciprocity, and has implications for social-exchange-based businesses among non-profits and social enterprises.