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Driving Forces Behind Informal Sanctions

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  • Armin Falk
  • Ernst Fehr
  • Urs Fischbacher

Abstract

This paper investigates the driving forces behind informal sanctions in cooperation games and the extent to which theories of fairness and reciprocity capture these forces. We find that cooperators' punishment is almost exclusively targeted toward the defectors, but the latter also impose a considerable amount of spiteful punishment on the cooperators. However, spiteful punishment vanishes if the punishers can no longer affect the payoff differences between themselves and the punished individual, whereas the cooperators even increase the resources devoted to punishment in this case. Our data also discriminate between different fairness principles. Fairness theories that are based on the assumption that players compare their own payoff to the group's average or the group's total payoff cannot explain the fact that cooperators target their punishment at the defectors. Fairness theories that assume that players aim to minimize payoff inequalities cannot explain the fact that cooperators punish defectors even if payoff inequalities cannot be reduced. Therefore, retaliation, i.e., the desire to harm those who committed unfair acts, seems to be the most important motive behind fairness-driven informal sanctions. Copyright The Econometric Society 2005.

Suggested Citation

  • Armin Falk & Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher, 2005. "Driving Forces Behind Informal Sanctions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(6), pages 2017-2030, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecm:emetrp:v:73:y:2005:i:6:p:2017-2030
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1111/j.1468-0262.2005.00644.x
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1999. "A Theory of Fairness, Competition, and Cooperation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 817-868.
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    JEL classification:

    • A13 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Social Values
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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