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Habits of Virtue: Creating Norms of Cooperation and Defection in the Laboratory

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  • Alexander Peysakhovich

    (Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138; and Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520)

  • David G. Rand

    (Department of Psychology, Department of Economics, School of Management, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520)

Abstract

What explains variability in norms of cooperation across organizations and cultures? One answer comes from the tendency of individuals to internalize typically successful behaviors as norms. Different institutional structures can cause different behavioral norms to be internalized. These norms are then carried over into atypical situations beyond the reach of the institution. Here, we experimentally demonstrate such spillovers. First, we immerse subjects in environments that do or do not support cooperation using repeated prisoner’s dilemmas. Afterwards, we measure their intrinsic prosociality in one-shot games. Subjects from environments that support cooperation are more prosocial, more likely to punish selfishness, and more trusting in general. Furthermore, these effects are most pronounced among subjects who use heuristics, suggesting that intuitive processes play a key role in the spillovers we observe. Our findings help to explain variation in one-shot anonymous cooperation, linking this intrinsically motivated prosociality to the externally imposed institutional rules experienced in other settings.Data, as supplemental material, are available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.2015.2168 . This paper was accepted by Uri Gneezy, behavioral economics.

Suggested Citation

  • Alexander Peysakhovich & David G. Rand, 2016. "Habits of Virtue: Creating Norms of Cooperation and Defection in the Laboratory," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 62(3), pages 631-647, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:62:y:2016:i:3:p:631-647
    DOI: 10.1287/mnsc.2015.2168
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