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Objective and subjective compliance: A norm-based explanation of ‘moral wiggle room’

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  • Spiekermann, Kai
  • Weiss, Arne

Abstract

We propose a cognitive-dissonance model of norm compliance to identify conditions for selfishly biased information acquisition. The model distinguishes between objective norm compliers, for whom the right action is a function of the state of the world, and subjective norm compliers, for whom it is a function of their belief. The former seek as much information as possible; the latter acquire only information that lowers, in expected terms, normative demands. The source of ‘moral wiggle room’ is not belief manipulation, but the coarseness of normative prescriptions under conditions of uncertainty. In a novel experimental setup, we find evidence for such strategic information uptake. Our results suggest that attempts to change behavior by subjecting individuals to norms can lead to biased information acquisition instead of compliance.

Suggested Citation

  • Spiekermann, Kai & Weiss, Arne, 2016. "Objective and subjective compliance: A norm-based explanation of ‘moral wiggle room’," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 96(C), pages 170-183.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:gamebe:v:96:y:2016:i:c:p:170-183
    DOI: 10.1016/j.geb.2015.11.007
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    Cited by:

    1. Tobias Regner, 2016. "Reciprocity under moral wiggle room: is it a preference or a constraint?," Jena Economic Research Papers 2016-024, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
    2. repec:gam:jgames:v:9:y:2018:i:2:p:22-:d:143902 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Norm compliance; Uncertainty; Experiment; Self-serving biases; Strategic learning; Dictator game;

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness

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