"Social Preferences? Google Answers!"

Tobias Regner

We analyse pricing, effort and tipping decisions at the online service ‘Google Answers’. Users set a price for the answer to their question ex ante, and they can additionally tip the researcher who provided the answer ex post. A positive wage-effort relationship is frequently found in laboratory gift-exchange games, yet field evidence for reciprocity in two-stage settings (wage, effort) is mixed. Our field data confirms lab findings for the three-stage design (wage, effort, bonus). Tipping is motivated by reciprocity, but also by reputation concerns among frequent users. Moreover, researchers seem to adjust their effort based on the user’s previous tipping behaviour. An efficient sorting takes place when sufficient tip history is available. In addition, we analyse how tipping is adopted when the behavioural default is not to tip and suggest estimates for reciprocal and selfish (strategic and myopic) user types.

Social Preferences? Google Answers!