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Norms Make Preferences Social

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Abstract

We develop a unifying explanation for prosocial behavior. We argue that people care not about others’ payoffs per se, but whether their own behavior accords with social norms. Individuals who are sensitive to norms will adhere to them so long as they observe others doing the same. A model formalizing this generates both prosociality (without relying on explicit distributional preferences) and well-known context effects (for which distributional preferences cannot account). A simple experiment allows us to measure individual-level normsensitivity and to show that norm-sensitivity explains heterogeneity in prosociality in public goods, dictator, ultimatum, and trust games.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University in its series Discussion Papers with number dp13-01.

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Length: 59
Date of creation: May 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:sfu:sfudps:dp13-01

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Postal: Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, BC, V5A 1S6, Canada
Phone: (778)782-3508
Fax: (778)782-5944
Web page: http://www.sfu.ca/economics.html
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Postal: Working Paper Coordinator, Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, BC, V5A 1S6, Canada
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Web: http://www.sfu.ca/economics/research/publications.html

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Keywords: experimental economics; norms; social preferences; reciprocity;

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Cited by:
  1. Erik O. Kimbrough & Alexander Vostroknutov, 2013. "The Social and Ecological Determinants of Common Pool Resource Sustainability," Discussion Papers dp13-06, Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University.

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