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Gifts as Economic Signals and Social Symbols

Colin Camerer
American Journal of Sociology
Vol. 94, Supplement: Organizations and Institutions: Sociological and Economic Approaches to the Analysis of Social Structure (1988), pp. S180-S214
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2780246
Page Count: 35
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Gifts as Economic Signals and Social Symbols
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Abstract

Gift-giving has often puzzled economists, especially because efficient grifts-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 beter 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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