Social preference models emphasize that perceived intentions motivate reciprocity. However, laboratory tests of this theory typically manipulate perceived intentions through changes in wealth resulting from a sacrifice in pay by another. There is little evidence on whether reciprocity occurs in response to perceived intentions alone, independent of concurrent changes in pay and giver sacrifice (and any associated guilt from that sacrifice). This paper addresses this gap in the literature by implementing a modified dictator game where gifts to dictators are possible, but where gift transactions are also stochastically prevented by nature. This leads to instances of observed gift-giving intentions that yield no sacrifice or change in outcomes. In addition, this study uses both monetary and non-monetary gifts; previous studies typically use only monetary incentives, even though real-world applications of this literature often involve non-monetary incentives such as business or marketing gifts. The results show that on average, dictators reciprocated strongly to just the intention to give a gift, and they also reciprocated similarly to both monetary and non-monetary gifts. These results are consistent with intentions-based models of social preferences and with much of the marketing literature on business gifts.
reciprocity intentions gift exchange social norms business gifts