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Gifts as Economic Signals and Social Symbols

Camerer, Colin (1988) Gifts as Economic Signals and Social Symbols. American Journal of Sociology, 94 (Supple). S180-S214. ISSN 0002-9602.

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Gift-giving has often puzzled economists, especially because efficient gifts-like cash or giving exactly what a person asks for-seem crass or inappropriate. It is shown in a formal game-theoretic model that gifts serve as "signals" of a person's intentions about future investment in a relationship, and inefficient gifts can be better signals. Other explanations for the inefficiency of gift giving are advanced, and some stylized facts about gift-giving practices are described (many of which are consistent with the signaling view of gifts).

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Additional Information:© 1988 by The University of Chicago. Thanks to Andrew Daughety, Mary Douglas, Gerry Faulhaber, Jack Hirschleifer, Howard Kunreuther, George Loewenstein, Ari Vepsalainen, Keith Weigelt, and the editors and referees of this supplement for encouragement and comments.
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Official Citation:Gifts as Economic Signals and Social Symbols Colin Camerer The American Journal of Sociology Vol. 94, Supplement: Organizations and Institutions: Sociological and Economic Approaches to the Analysis of Social Structure (1988), pp. S180-S214 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Article Stable URL:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:22177
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:09 Mar 2011 22:56
Last Modified:26 Dec 2012 12:55

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