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Norms Make Preferences Social

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  • Erik O. Kimbrough
  • Alexander Vostroknutov

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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Suggested Citation

  • Erik O. Kimbrough & Alexander Vostroknutov, 2016. "Norms Make Preferences Social," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 608-638, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jeurec:v:14:y:2016:i:3:p:608-638
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1111/jeea.2016.14.issue-3
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    Cited by:

    1. Tjøtta, Sigve, 2016. "You’ll never walk alone. An experimental study on receiving money," Working Papers in Economics 03/16, University of Bergen, Department of Economics.
    2. Schniter, Eric & Sheremeta, Roman & Shields, Timothy, 2015. "The Problem with All-or-nothing Trust Games: What Others Choose Not to Do Matters In Trust-based Exchange," MPRA Paper 68561, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Philippe Le Coent & Raphaële Preget & Sophie Thoyer, 2018. "Do farmers follow the herd? The influence of social norms in the participation to agri-environmental schemes," CEE-M Working Papers 18-02, CEE-M, Universitiy of Montpellier, CNRS, INRA, Montpellier SupAgro.
    4. Douglas Davis & Asen Ivanov & Oleg Korenok, 2016. "Individual characteristics and behavior in repeated games: an experimental study," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 19(1), pages 67-99, March.
    5. Caleb A. Cox & Brock Stoddard, 2015. "Framing and Feedback in Social Dilemmas with Partners and Strangers," Games, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(4), pages 1-19, September.
    6. Attanasi, Giuseppe & Hopfensitz, Astrid & Lorini, Emiliano & Moisan, Frédéric, 2016. "Social connectedness improves co-ordination on individually costly, efficient outcomes," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 86-106.
    7. Kimbrough, Erik O. & Vostroknutov, Alexander, 2015. "The social and ecological determinants of common pool resource sustainability," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 38-53.
    8. Marianna Belloc & Ennio Bilancini & Leonardo Boncinelli & Simone D'Alessandro, 2017. "A Social Heuristics Hypothesis for the Stag Hunt: Fast- and Slow-Thinking Hunters in the Lab," CESifo Working Paper Series 6824, CESifo Group Munich.
    9. Gächter, Simon & Gerhards, Leonie & Nosenzo, Daniele, 2017. "The importance of peers for compliance with norms of fair sharing," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 72-86.
    10. repec:kap:theord:v:82:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s11238-016-9578-4 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Felix Koelle & Tom Lane & Daniele Nosenzo & Chris Starmer, 2017. "Nudging the electorate: what works and why?," Discussion Papers 2017-16, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
    12. E. Lance Howe & James J. Murphy & Drew Gerkey & Colin T. West, 2015. "Indirect Reciprocity, Resource Sharing, and Environmental Risk: Evidence from Field Experiments in Siberia," Working Papers 2015-04, University of Alaska Anchorage, Department of Economics.
    13. Vesely, Stepan & Wengström, Erik, 2017. "Risk and Cooperation: Experimental Evidence from Stochastic Public Good Games," Working Papers 2017:3, Lund University, Department of Economics.
    14. Gibson, Rajna & Tanner, Carmen & Wagner, Alexander F, 2014. "The Choice of Honesty: An Experiment Regarding Heterogeneous Responses to Situational Social Norms," CEPR Discussion Papers 9880, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    15. Pieter Desmet & Christoph Engel, 2017. "People Are Conditional Rule Followers," Discussion Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2017_09, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
    16. Thomsson, Kaj M. & Vostroknutov, Alexander, 2017. "Small-world conservatives and rigid liberals: Attitudes towards sharing in self-proclaimed left and right," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 135(C), pages 181-192.
    17. Melanie Schröder & Norma Burow, 2016. "Couple's Labor Supply, Taxes, and the Division of Housework in a Gender-Neutral Lab," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1593, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    18. Ludivine Roussey & Raphaël Soubeyran, 2018. "Overburdened judges," CEE-M Working Papers 18-03, CEE-M, Universitiy of Montpellier, CNRS, INRA, Montpellier SupAgro.

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    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles

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