Social Norms as a Social Exchange
Social Norms are a pervasive phenomenon in social and economic life. They have important economic consequences and constitute powerful social constraints on individual behaviour beyond the legal constraints and the market constraints usually considered by economists. This paper presents a simple theory of social norms that is based on the social exchange approach as developed by e. g. HOMANS, BLAU and more recently by HOLLÄNDER. The sanctioning of deviations from the norm by social (dis)approval is at the heart of this approach. The paper also provides an experimental test of the theory. The empirical results indicate that social exchanges are not capable of generating behavioural effects among complete strangers. Yet, with some minimal social familiarity among subjects the opportunity for social exchanges gives rise to a significant increase in voluntary cooperation and, thus, norm governed behaviour.
Volume (Year): 133 (1997)
Issue (Month): II (June)
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