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Norms Make Preferences Social

Author

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  • Erik O. Kimbrough
  • Alexander Vostroknutov

Abstract

We explore the idea that prosocial behavior in experimental games is driven by social norms imported into the laboratory. Under this view, differences in behavior across subjects is driven by heterogeneity in sensitivity to social norms. We introduce an incentivized method of eliciting individual norm-sensitivity, and we show how it relates to play in public goods, trust, dictator, and ultimatum games. We show how our observations can be rationalized in a stylized model of norm-dependent preferences under reasonable assumptions about the nature of social norms. Then we directly elicit norms in these games to test the robustness of our interpretation.

Suggested Citation

  • Erik O. Kimbrough & Alexander Vostroknutov, 2016. "Norms Make Preferences Social," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 608-638.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jeurec:v:14:y:2016:i:3:p:608-638.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior

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