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Conformity, reciprocity and the sense of justice. How social contract-based preferences and beliefs explain norm compliance: the experimental evidence

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  • Lorenzo Sacconi

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  • Marco Faillo

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Abstract

Compliance with a social norm is a matter of self-enforceability and endogenous motivation to conform, which is relevant not just to social norm,s but also to a wide array of institutions. Here we consider endogenous mechanisms that become effective once the game description has been enriched with pre-play communication allowing impartial agreements on a norm (even if they remain not binding in any sense). Behavioral models understand conformity as the maximization of some �enlarged� utility function properly defined to make room for the individual�s �desire� to comply with a norm reciprocally adhered to by other participants � whose conformity in turn depends on the expectation that the norm will be in fact reciprocally adhered to. In particular this paper presents an experimental study on the �conformity-with-the-ideal preference theory� (Grimalda and Sacconi 2005), based of a simple experimental three person game called the �exclusion game�. If the players participate in a �constitutional stage� (under a veil of ignorance) in which they decide the rule of division unanimously, the experimental data show a dramatic change in the participants� behavior pattern. Most of them conform to the fair rule of division to which they have agreed in a pre-play communication stage, whereas in the absence of this agreement they behave egoistically. The paper also argues that this behavior is largely consistent with what John Rawls (1971) called the �sense of justice�, a theory of norm compliance unfortunately overlooked by economists and which should be reconsidered after the behaviorist turn in economics.
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Suggested Citation

  • Lorenzo Sacconi & Marco Faillo, 2010. "Conformity, reciprocity and the sense of justice. How social contract-based preferences and beliefs explain norm compliance: the experimental evidence," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 21(2), pages 171-201, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:copoec:v:21:y:2010:i:2:p:171-201
    DOI: 10.1007/s10602-009-9080-x
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Joseph Farrell & Matthew Rabin, 1996. "Cheap Talk," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(3), pages 103-118, Summer.
    2. Falk, Armin & Fischbacher, Urs, 2006. "A theory of reciprocity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 54(2), pages 293-315, February.
    3. Tore Ellingsen & Magnus Johannesson, 2004. "Promises, Threats and Fairness," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(495), pages 397-420, April.
    4. Starmer, Chris & Sugden, Robert, 1991. "Does the Random-Lottery Incentive System Elicit True Preferences? An Experimental Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(4), pages 971-978, September.
    5. Geanakoplos, John & Pearce, David & Stacchetti, Ennio, 1989. "Psychological games and sequential rationality," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 60-79, March.
    6. Gianluca Grimalda & Lorenzo Sacconi, 2005. "The Constitution of the Not-For-Profit Organisation: Reciprocal Conformity to Morality," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 16(3), pages 249-276, September.
    7. Gary Charness & Martin Dufwenberg, 2006. "Promises and Partnership," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(6), pages 1579-1601, November.
    8. Rabin, Matthew, 1993. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1281-1302, December.
    9. Pierpaolo Battigalli & Martin Dufwenberg, 2007. "Guilt in Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(2), pages 170-176, May.
    10. Christoph Vanberg, 2008. "Why Do People Keep Their Promises? An Experimental Test of Two Explanations -super-1," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 76(6), pages 1467-1480, November.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Lorenzo Sacconi, 2011. "From individual responsibility to ÔsharedÕ social responsibilities: concepts for a new paradigm," Econometica Working Papers wp27, Econometica.
    2. Timo Tammi, 2011. "Contractual preferences and moral biases: social identity and procedural fairness in the exclusion game experiment," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 22(4), pages 373-397, December.
    3. Roberto Tamborini, 2016. "The ''obscure puzzle'' of management control. Any remedy?," DEM Working Papers 2016/02, Department of Economics and Management.
    4. Giacomo Degli Antoni & Marco Faillo & Lorenzo Sacconi & Pedro Francés-Gomez, 2016. "Distributive Justice with Production and the Social Contract. An Experimental study," Econometica Working Papers wp60, Econometica.
    5. Matteo Rizzolli & Luca Stanca, 2012. "Judicial Errors and Crime Deterrence: Theory and Experimental Evidence," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55(2), pages 311-338.
    6. Marco Faillo & Stefania Ottone & Lorenzo Sacconi, 2015. "The social contract in the laboratory. An experimental analysis of self-enforcing impartial agreements," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 163(3), pages 225-246, June.
    7. Lorenzo Sacconi, 2013. "The economics of corporate social responsibility," Chapters,in: Handbook on the Economics of Reciprocity and Social Enterprise, chapter 38, pages 372-399 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    8. Degli Antoni, Giacomo & Sacconi, Lorenzo, 2013. "Social responsibility, activism and boycotting in a firm–stakeholders network of games with players’ conformist preferences," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 216-226.
    9. Silvia Sacchetti, 2015. "Inclusive and Exclusive Social Preferences: A Deweyan Framework to Explain Governance Heterogeneity," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 126(3), pages 473-485, February.
    10. Lorenzo Sacconi, 2012. "Corporate Social Responsibility and Corporate Governance," Econometica Working Papers wp38, Econometica.
    11. Thomas Bassetti & Filippo Pavesi, 2017. "Electoral Contributions And The Cost Of Unpopularity," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 55(4), pages 1771-1791, October.
    12. Sacchetti, Silvia, 2014. "Prassi deliberativa, creazione di spazi pubblici e community welfare," AICCON Working Papers 134-2014, Associazione Italiana per la Cultura della Cooperazione e del Non Profit.
    13. Daniel Arce, 2015. "Integrity, unprincipled agents and corporate governance reform," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 39(3), pages 539-551, June.
    14. Lorenzo Sacconi, 2013. "Ethics, economic organization and the social contract," Chapters,in: Handbook of Economic Organization, chapter 7 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    15. Lorenzo Sacconi, 2010. "A Rawlsian View of CSR and the Game Theory of its Implementation (III): Conformism, Equilibrium Refinement and Selection," Econometica Working Papers wp24, Econometica.
    16. Giacomo Degli Antoni & Lorenzo Sacconi, 2010. "Modeling Cognitive Social Capital and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as Preconditions for Sustainable Networks of Relations," Econometica Working Papers wp19, Econometica.
    17. Leonardo Becchetti & Giacomo Degli Antoni & Marco Faillo, 2013. "Team reasoning theory: an experimental analysis of common reason to believe and social distance," International Review of Economics, Springer;Happiness Economics and Interpersonal Relations (HEIRS), vol. 60(3), pages 269-291, September.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Conformist preferences; Reciprocity; Veil of ignorance; Psychological games; Fairness; Experiments; C7; C9; D63; D64;

    JEL classification:

    • C7 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory
    • C9 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers

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