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The Impact of Social Ties on Group Interactions: Evidence from Minimal Groups and Randomly Assigned Real Groups

  • Lorenz Goette
  • David Huffman
  • Stephan Meier

Economists are increasingly interested in how group membership affects individual behavior. The standard method assigns individuals to "minimal" groups, i.e. arbitrary labels, in a lab. But real group often involve social interactions leading to social ties between group members. Our experiments compare randomly assigned minimal groups to randomly assigned groups involving real social interactions. While adding social ties leads to qualitatively similar, although stronger, in-group favoritism in cooperation, altruistic norm enforcement patterns are qualitatively different between treatments. Our findings contribute to the micro-foundation of theories of group preferences, and caution against generalizations from "minimal" groups to groups with social context. (JEL C92, D64, D71, Z13)

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Journal: Microeconomics.

Volume (Year): 4 (2012)
Issue (Month): 1 (February)
Pages: 101-15

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aejmic:v:4:y:2012:i:1:p:101-15
Note: DOI: 10.1257/mic.4.1.101
Contact details of provider: Web page: https://www.aeaweb.org/aej-micro
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  1. Matthias Sutter, 2009. "Individual Behavior and Group Membership: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(5), pages 2247-57, December.
  2. Fershtman, C. & Gneezy, U., 2000. "Discrimination in a Segmented Society: an Experimental Approach," Papers 2000-9, Tel Aviv.
  3. Quoc-Anh Do & Stephen Leider & Markus M. Mobius & Tanya Rosenblat, 2008. "Directed Altruism and Enforced Reciprocity in Social Networks," Working Papers 17-2008, Singapore Management University, School of Economics.
  4. Stephen Leider & Markus M. Möbius & Tanya Rosenblat & Quoc-Anh Do, 2010. "What Do We Expect from Our Friends?," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 8(1), pages 120-138, 03.
  5. Lorenz Goette & David Huffman & Stephan Meier, 2006. "The impact of group membership on cooperation and norm enforcement: evidence using random assignment to real social groups," Working Papers 06-7, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
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