Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

An experimental investigation of why individuals conform

Contents:

Author Info

  • Basit Zafar

Abstract

Social interdependence is believed to play an important role in how people make individual choices. This paper presents a simple model constructed on the premise that people are motivated by their own payoff as well as by how their actions compare with those of other people in their reference group. I show that conformity of actions may arise either from learning about the norm (social learning), or from adhering to the norm because of image-related concerns (social influence). To disentangle the two empirically, I use the fact that image-related concerns can be present only if actions are publicly observable. The model predictions are tested in a "charitable contribution" experiment in which the actions and identities of the subjects are unmasked in a controlled and systematic way. Both social learning and social influence seem to play an important role in the subjects' choices. In addition, individuals gain utility simply by making the same choice as the reference group (social comparison) and change their contributions in the direction of the social norm even when their identities are hidden. Once the identities and contribution distributions of group members are revealed, individuals conform to the modal choice of the group. Moreover, I find that social ties (defined as subjects knowing one another from outside the experimental environment) affect the role of social influence. In particular, a low-contribution norm evolves that causes individuals to contribute less in the presence of people they know.

Download Info

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
File URL: http://www.newyorkfed.org/research/staff_reports/sr365.html
Download Restriction: no

File URL: http://www.newyorkfed.org/research/staff_reports/sr365.pdf
Download Restriction: no

Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of New York in its series Staff Reports with number 365.

as in new window
Length:
Date of creation: 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fip:fednsr:365

Contact details of provider:
Postal: 33 Liberty Street, New York, NY 10045-0001
Email:
Web page: http://www.newyorkfed.org/
More information through EDIRC

Order Information:
Email:
Web: http://www.ny.frb.org/rmaghome/staff_rp/

Related research

Keywords: Human behavior ; Social choice;

Other versions of this item:

This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

References

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
as in new window
  1. Kevin McCabe & Elizabeth Hoffman & Vernon L. Smith, 1999. "Social Distance and Other-Regarding Behavior in Dictator Games: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 340-341, March.
  2. Rachel Croson & Jen Shang, 2008. "The impact of downward social information on contribution decisions," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 11(3), pages 221-233, September.
  3. Akerlof, George A, 1980. "A Theory of Social Custom, of Which Unemployment May be One Consequence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 94(4), pages 749-75, June.
  4. Urs Fischbacher & Simon Gaechter & Ernst Fehr, . "Are People Conditionally Cooperative? Evidence from a Public Goods Experiment," IEW - Working Papers 016, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  5. Bernheim, B Douglas, 1994. "A Theory of Conformity," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 841-77, October.
  6. James Andreoni & B. Douglas Bernheim, 2009. "Social Image and the 50-50 Norm: A Theoretical and Experimental Analysis of Audience Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 77(5), pages 1607-1636, 09.
  7. Sushil Bikhchandani & David Hirshleifer & Ivo Welch, 2010. "A theory of Fads, Fashion, Custom and cultural change as informational Cascades," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1193, David K. Levine.
  8. Keser, Claudia & van Winden, Frans, 2000. " Conditional Cooperation and Voluntary Contributions to Public Goods," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 102(1), pages 23-39, March.
  9. Bruno S. Frey & Stephan Meier, 2004. "Social Comparisons and Pro-social Behavior: Testing "Conditional Cooperation" in a Field Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1717-1722, December.
  10. Craig E. Landry & Andreas Lange & John A. List & Michael K. Price & Nicholas G. Rupp, 2006. "Toward an Understanding of the Economics of Charity: Evidence from a Field Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 121(2), pages 747-782, May.
  11. Gary Charness & Martin Dufwenberg, 2004. "Promises and Partnership," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000001, UCLA Department of Economics.
  12. Bruce Sacerdote, 2001. "Peer Effects With Random Assignment: Results For Dartmouth Roommates," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(2), pages 681-704, May.
  13. Klaus Abbink & Bernd Irlenbusch & Elke Renner, 2006. "Group Size and Social Ties in Microfinance Institutions," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 44(4), pages 614-628, October.
  14. Jean Tirole & Roland Bénabou, 2006. "Incentives and Prosocial Behavior," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1652-1678, December.
  15. Andreoni, James & Petrie, Ragan, 2004. "Public goods experiments without confidentiality: a glimpse into fund-raising," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(7-8), pages 1605-1623, July.
  16. Andreoni, James, 1990. "Impure Altruism and Donations to Public Goods: A Theory of Warm-Glow Giving?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 100(401), pages 464-77, June.
  17. Manski, Charles F, 1993. "Identification of Endogenous Social Effects: The Reflection Problem," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(3), pages 531-42, July.
  18. Rabin, Matthew, 1993. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1281-1302, December.
  19. Messick, David M., 1999. "Alternative logics for decision making in social settings," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 11-28, May.
  20. Andrew Sweeting, 2006. "Coordination, Differentiation, and the Timing of Radio Commercials," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 15(4), pages 909-942, December.
  21. Munshi, Kaivan & Myaux, Jacques, 2006. "Social norms and the fertility transition," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(1), pages 1-38, June.
  22. Harbaugh, William T., 1998. "What do donations buy?: A model of philanthropy based on prestige and warm glow," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(2), pages 269-284, February.
  23. Bruno S. Frey & Iris Bohnet, 1999. "Social Distance and Other-Regarding Behavior in Dictator Games: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 335-339, March.
  24. Anderson, Lisa R & Holt, Charles A, 1997. "Information Cascades in the Laboratory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(5), pages 847-62, December.
  25. Timothy N. Cason & Vai-Lam Mui, 1998. "Social Influence in the Sequential Dictator Game," Development Research Unit Working Paper Series archive-37, Monash University, Department of Economics.
  26. Alberto Bisin & Giorgio Topa, 2003. "Empirical Models of Cultural Transmission," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 1(2-3), pages 363-375, 04/05.
  27. Vesterlund, Lise, 2003. "The informational value of sequential fundraising," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(3-4), pages 627-657, March.
  28. Reuben, Ernesto & van Winden, Frans, 2008. "Social ties and coordination on negative reciprocity: The role of affect," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(1-2), pages 34-53, February.
  29. Bicchieri, Cristina & Erte, Xiao, 2007. "Do the right thing: But only if others do so," MPRA Paper 4609, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  30. Elster, Jon, 1996. "Rationality and the Emotions," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 106(438), pages 1386-97, September.
  31. Ariely, Dan & Bracha, Anat & Meier, Stephan, 2007. "Doing Good or Doing Well? Image Motivation and Monetary Incentives in Behaving Prosocially," IZA Discussion Papers 2968, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  32. Charles F. Manski, 2000. "Economic Analysis of Social Interactions," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 115-136, Summer.
  33. Rege, Mari & Telle, Kjetil, 2004. "The impact of social approval and framing on cooperation in public good situations," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(7-8), pages 1625-1644, July.
  34. Timothy G. Conley & Christopher R. Udry, 2010. "Learning about a New Technology: Pineapple in Ghana," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(1), pages 35-69, March.
  35. Krupka, Erin L. & Weber, Roberto A., 2007. "The Focusing and Informational Effects of Norms on Pro-Social Behavior," IZA Discussion Papers 3169, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  36. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  37. Mas, Alexandre & Moretti, Enrico, 2006. "Peers at Work," IZA Discussion Papers 2292, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  38. Bardsley, Nicholas & Sausgruber, Rupert, 2005. "Conformity and reciprocity in public good provision," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 26(5), pages 664-681, October.
  39. Hoffman Elizabeth & McCabe Kevin & Shachat Keith & Smith Vernon, 1994. "Preferences, Property Rights, and Anonymity in Bargaining Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 346-380, November.
  40. Charness, Gary & Gneezy, Uri, 2008. "What's in a name? Anonymity and social distance in dictator and ultimatum games," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 29-35, October.
  41. Haan, Marco & Kooreman, Peter & Riemersma, Tineke, 2006. "Friendship in a Public Good Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 2108, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  42. Harbaugh, William T, 1998. "The Prestige Motive for Making Charitable Transfers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 277-82, May.
  43. Banerjee, Abhijit V, 1992. "A Simple Model of Herd Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(3), pages 797-817, August.
  44. Anderson, Simon P. & Goeree, Jacob K. & Holt, Charles A., 1998. "A theoretical analysis of altruism and decision error in public goods games," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(2), pages 297-323, November.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

Citations

Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
as in new window

Cited by:
  1. Shoji, Masahiro, 2013. "Guilt aversion and peer effects in crime: experimental and empirical evidence from Bangladesh," MPRA Paper 44746, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. Büchel, Berno & Hellmann, Tim & Klößner, Stefan, 2013. "Opinion Dynamics and Wisdom under Conformity," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 79770, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
  3. Wolff, Irenaeus, 2009. "Counterpunishment revisited: an evolutionary approach," MPRA Paper 16923, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Alexia Delfino & Luigi Marengo & Matteo Ploner, 2013. "I Did it Your Way. An Experimental Investigation of Peer Effects in Investment Choices," CEEL Working Papers 1305, Cognitive and Experimental Economics Laboratory, Department of Economics, University of Trento, Italia.
  5. Masahiro Shoji, 2014. "Channels of Peer Effects and Guilt Aversion in Crime: Experimental and Empirical Evidence from Bangladesh," CIRJE F-Series CIRJE-F-923, CIRJE, Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo.
  6. Ryota Nakamura & Marc Suhrcke & Daniel John Zizzo, 2014. "A Triple Test for Behavioral Economics Models and Public Health Policy," Working Paper series, University of East Anglia, Centre for Behavioural and Experimental Social Science (CBESS) 14-01, School of Economics, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK..
  7. Daniel John Zizzo, 2012. "Inducing natural group identity: A RDP analysis," Working Paper series, University of East Anglia, Centre for Behavioural and Experimental Social Science (CBESS) 12-01, School of Economics, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK..

Lists

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

Statistics

Access and download statistics

Corrections

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:fip:fednsr:365. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Amy Farber).

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.