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History, Expectations, and Leadership in the Evolution of Social Norms

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  • Daron Acemoglu
  • Matthew O. Jackson

Abstract

We study the evolution of a social norm of “cooperation” in a dynamic environment. Each agent lives for two periods and interacts with agents from the previous and next generations via a coordination game. Social norms emerge as patterns of behaviour that are stable in part due to agents' interpretations of private information about the past, influenced by occasional commonly observed past behaviours. For sufficiently backward-looking societies, history completely drives equilibrium play, leading to a social norm of high or low cooperation. In more forward-looking societies, there is a pattern of “reversion” whereby play starting with high (low) cooperation reverts towards lower (higher) cooperation. The impact of history can be countered by occasional “prominent” agents, whose actions are visible by all future agents and who can leverage their greater visibility to influence expectations of future agents and overturn social norms of low cooperation.

Suggested Citation

  • Daron Acemoglu & Matthew O. Jackson, 2015. "History, Expectations, and Leadership in the Evolution of Social Norms," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 82(2), pages 423-456.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:restud:v:82:y:2015:i:2:p:423-456
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/restud/rdu039
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    1. Verdier, Thierry & Zenou, Yves, 2018. "Cultural leader and the dynamics of assimilation," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 175(C), pages 374-414.
    2. DeAngelo, Gregory & Gee, Laura Katherine, 2018. "Peers or Police? Detection and Sanctions in the Provision of Public Goods," IZA Discussion Papers 11540, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Schwesinger, Georg & Müller, Stephan & Lundan, Sarianna M., 2016. "Governance Structures, Cultural Distance, and Socialization Dynamics: Further Challenges for the Modern Corporation," Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145907, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
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    6. Aidas Masiliunas, 2016. "Inefficient Lock-in with Sophisticated and Myopic Players," AMSE Working Papers 1615, Aix-Marseille School of Economics, Marseille, France, revised 19 Apr 2016.
    7. Jochem, Torsten & Murtazashvili, Ilia & Murtazashvili, Jennifer, 2016. "Establishing Local Government in Fragile States: Experimental Evidence from Afghanistan," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 293-310.
    8. Jackson, Matthew O. & Zenou, Yves, 2015. "Games on Networks," Handbook of Game Theory with Economic Applications, Elsevier.
    9. Brown, Drusilla & Dehejia, Rajeev & Robertson, Raymond, 2016. "Laws, Costs, Norms, and Learning: Improving Working Conditions in Developing Countries," IZA Discussion Papers 10025, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    10. Araujo, Luis & Guimaraes, Bernardo, 2015. "Intertemporal coordination with delay options," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 157(C), pages 793-810.
    11. Nico Voigtländer & Joachim Voth, 2012. "(Re-) Shaping hatred: Anti-Semitic attitudes in Germany, 1890-2006," Economics Working Papers 1344, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
    12. Guerriero, Carmine & Boranbay, Serra, 2012. "Endogenous (In)Formal Institutions," MPRA Paper 71028, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 22 Apr 2016.
    13. Joel Mokyr, 2013. "Cultural entrepreneurs and the origins of modern economic growth," Scandinavian Economic History Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 61(1), pages 1-33, March.
    14. Jimenez-Ayora, Pablo & Ulubaşoğlu, Mehmet Ali, 2015. "What underlies weak states? The role of terrain ruggedness," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 167-183.
    15. Zhou, Junjie, 2016. "Economics of leadership and hierarchy," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 88-106.
    16. Lee J. Alston & Marcus André Melo & Bernardo Mueller & Carlos Pereira, 2016. "Why Countries Transition? The Case of Brazil, 1964–2016," Atlantic Economic Journal, Springer;International Atlantic Economic Society, vol. 44(2), pages 197-224, June.
    17. Chih, Yao-Yu, 2016. "Social network structure and government provision crowding-out on voluntary contributions," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 83-90.
    18. repec:eee:jetheo:v:172:y:2017:i:c:p:451-477 is not listed on IDEAS
    19. Pooya Molavi & Ceyhun Eksin & Alejandro Ribeiro & Ali Jadbabaie, 2016. "Learning to Coordinate in Social Networks," Operations Research, INFORMS, vol. 64(3), pages 605-621, June.
    20. Beekman, Gonne & Nillesen, Eleonora & Voors, Maarten, 2018. "Sanctioning Regimes and Chief Quality: Evidence from Liberia," MERIT Working Papers 011, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C73 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Stochastic and Dynamic Games; Evolutionary Games
    • D7 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making
    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics

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