Both the law and culture distinguish between acts of commission that overturn the status quo and acts of omission that uphold it. This distinction is of central importance when it comes to reciprocal actions. A stylized fact of everyday life is that acts of commission elicit stronger reciprocal responses than do acts of omission. We report experiments that directly test whether this stylized fact characterizes behavior in controlled experiments. We compare reciprocal responses to both types of acts in experiments using binary, extensive form games. Across three experiments, we examine the robustness of our results to different ways in which the status quo can be induced in experiments. The data show a clear difference between effects of acts of commission and omission by first movers on reciprocal responses by second movers.
- Status quo