An Exploratory Study of Contracting Performance by Untrained Individuals

Report Number: NPS-CM-06-092

Series: Contract Management

Category: Contractor Performance

Report Series: Proceedings Paper

Authors: Ned Kock, Jacques Verville, Jesus Carmona

Title: An Exploratory Study of Contracting Performance by Untrained Individuals

Published: 2006-04-01

Sponsored By: Acquisition Research Program

Status: Published--Unlimited Distribution

Research Type: NPS Faculty

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Keywords: Electronic Commerce, Electronic Trade, Web-based Contracts, Software Purchasing, Communication Media, Media Naturalness


This paper reports on an experimental study where 178 student subjects without formal training in contracting issues were asked to accept or reject each of 20 clauses of a software purchasing contract. The subjects used a Web-based interface to accept or reject clauses. Of the 20 clauses in the contract, 6 were intentionally deceitful, in the sense that they specified binding obligations that made it unadvisable to accept them as part of a contract. On average, the subjects were able to correctly accept approximately 11 out of 14 non-deceitful clauses. Somewhat surprisingly, the subjects were able to correctly reject only 2 out of 6 deceitful clauses. The study also suggests that, among untrained individuals, those who are older, have more general work experience, and have above-average scholastic ability are the ones more likely to perform well in contracting tasks under conditions similar to those found in this study (i.e., Web-based contracting conditions). This study