Promises are a pervasive and important feature of real-world economic exchange situations. We investigate lay peoples’ intuition of promise keeping. We study the effect of mutual promises, the dynamic of promising and performance over time, the effect of continuous as opposed to binary performance decisions, the effect of income, and the role the receipt of a promise plays on promise-keeping. Assuming that law serves as a backstop of moral intuitions, our results cast some light on the mutuality requirement, on the doctrine of substantial performance, doctrines of divisible obligations, and doctrines of contract formation.
Florian, Ederer and Stremitzer, Alexander, Moral Institutions of Promise Keeping. ETH Zurich Working Paper 2018-09-27.