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When do Formal Rules and Informal Norms Converge?


  • Desiree A. Desierto
  • John V. C. Nye


We propose evolutionary dynamics to show how rules converge into norms. Individuals play a game of upholding or rejecting a rule, and the more they uphold the rule, the more it becomes established as a norm. We find that when individuals are rational, the initial state determines whether the rule converges into a norm; when individuals are boundedly rational, convergence occurs only if upholding rules is a risk-dominant strategy. This suggests why big-bang reforms that affect only the initial state can fail, while gradualist approaches that can sustain the risk dominance of upholding rules may be more effective.

Suggested Citation

  • Desiree A. Desierto & John V. C. Nye, 2011. "When do Formal Rules and Informal Norms Converge?," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 167(4), pages 613-629, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:mhr:jinste:urn:sici:0932-4569(201112)167:4_613:wdfrai_2.0.tx_2-i

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Masahiko Aoki, 2013. "Endogenizing institutions and institutional changes," Chapters,in: Comparative Institutional Analysis, chapter 16, pages 267-297 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    2. Amir, Madjid & Berninghaus, Siegfried K., 1996. "Another Approach to Mutation and Learning in Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 19-43, May.
    3. Bergin, James & Lipman, Barton L, 1996. "Evolution with State-Dependent Mutations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(4), pages 943-956, July.
    4. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1369-1401, December.
    5. Boylan, Richard T., 1990. "Laws of Large Numbers for Dynamical Systems with Randomly Matched Individuals," Working Papers 748, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
    6. Cabrales, Antonio, 2000. "Stochastic Replicator Dynamics," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 41(2), pages 451-481, May.
    7. Boylan, Richard T., 1992. "Laws of large numbers for dynamical systems with randomly matched individuals," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 473-504, August.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • P48 - Economic Systems - - Other Economic Systems - - - Political Economy; Legal Institutions; Property Rights; Natural Resources; Energy; Environment; Regional Studies
    • C73 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Stochastic and Dynamic Games; Evolutionary Games
    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary


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