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Social norms as choreography

Listed author(s):
  • Herbert Gintis

    (Santa Fe Institute, USA and Central European University, Hungary,

This article shows that social norms are better explained as correlating devices for a correlated equilibrium of the underlying stage game, rather than Nash equilibria. Whereas the epistemological requirements for rational agents playing Nash equilibria are very stringent and usually implausible, the requirements for a correlated equilibrium amount to the existence of common priors, which we interpret as induced by the cultural system of the society in question. When the correlating device has perfect information, we need in addition only to posit that individuals obey the social norm when it is costless to do so. When the correlating device has incomplete information, the operation of the social norm requires that individuals have a predisposition to follow the norm even when this is costly. The latter case explains why social norms are associated with other-regarding preferences and provides a basis for analyzing honesty and corruption.

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Article provided by in its journal Politics, Philosophy & Economics.

Volume (Year): 9 (2010)
Issue (Month): 3 (August)
Pages: 251-264

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Handle: RePEc:sae:pophec:v:9:y:2010:i:3:p:251-264
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