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Deviant or Wrong? The Effects of Norm Information on the Efficacy of Punishment

Author

Listed:
  • Cristina Bicchieri

    (University of Pennsylvania)

  • Eugen Dimant

    (University of Pennsylvania; CESifo, Munich)

  • Erte Xiao

    (Monash University)

Abstract

A stream of research examining the effect of punishment on conformity indicates that punishment can backfire and lead to suboptimal social outcomes. We examine whether this effect is due to a lack of perceived legitimacy of rule enforcement, enabling agents to justify selfish behavior. We address the question of punishment legitimacy by shedding light upon the importance of social norms and their interplay with punishment. People are often presented with incomplete norm information: either about what most others do (empirical) or what most others deem appropriate (normative). We show that in isolation, neither punishment nor empirical/normative information increase prosocial behavior. In turn, we find that prosociality significantly increases when normative information and punishment are combined, but only when compliance is relatively cheap. When compliance is more expensive, we find that the combination of punishment and empirical information about others' conformity can have detrimental effects. In additional experiments, we explain how this negative effect is due, at least for some individuals, to punishment not being perceived as justified. Our results have important implications for researchers and practitioners alike.

Suggested Citation

  • Cristina Bicchieri & Eugen Dimant & Erte Xiao, 2020. "Deviant or Wrong? The Effects of Norm Information on the Efficacy of Punishment," ECONtribute Discussion Papers Series 023, University of Bonn and University of Cologne, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:ajk:ajkdps:023
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    Cited by:

    1. Diekert, Florian & Eymess, Tillmann & Luomba, Joseph & Waichman, Israel, 2020. "The Creation of Social Norms under Weak Institutions," Working Papers 0684, University of Heidelberg, Department of Economics.
    2. Cristina Bicchieri & Eugen Dimant, 2019. "Nudging with Care: The Risks and Benefits of Social Information," Discussion Papers 2019-02, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
    3. Cristina Bicchieri & Eugen Dimant & Simon Gächter & Daniele Nosenzo, 2020. "Observability, Social Proximity, and the Erosion of Norm Compliance," ECONtribute Discussion Papers Series 009, University of Bonn and University of Cologne, Germany.
    4. Eugen Dimant & Kyle Hyndman, 2019. "Becoming Friends or Foes? How Competitive Environments Shape Social Preferences," Discussion Papers 2019-18, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
    5. Cristina Bicchieri & Eugen Dimant & Silvia Sonderegger, 2020. "It's Not a Lie If You Believe the Norm Does Not Apply: Conditional Norm-Following with Strategic Beliefs," CESifo Working Paper Series 8059, CESifo.
    6. Eugen Dimant, 2020. "Hate Trumps Love: The Impact of Political Polarization on Social Preferences," ECONtribute Discussion Papers Series 029, University of Bonn and University of Cologne, Germany.
    7. Cristina Bicchieri & Eugen Dimant, 2018. "It's Not A Lie If You Believe It. Lying and Belief Distortion Under Norm-Uncertainty," PPE Working Papers 0012, Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
    8. Bonan, Jacopo & Battiston, Pietro & Bleck, Jaimie & LeMay-Boucher, Philippe & Pareglio, Stefano & Sarr, Bassirou & Tavoni, Massimo, 2021. "Social interaction and technology adoption: Experimental evidence from improved cookstoves in Mali," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 144(C).
    9. Dimant, Eugen, 2019. "Contagion of pro- and anti-social behavior among peers and the role of social proximity," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 66-88.
    10. Gary Bolton & Eugen Dimant & Ulrich Schmidt, 2018. "When a Nudge Backfires. Using Observation with Social and Economic Incentives to Promote Pro-Social Behavior," PPE Working Papers 0017, Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
    11. Bicchieri, Cristina & Dimant, Eugen & Gächter, Simon & Nosenzo, Daniele, 2020. "Social Proximity and the Erosion of Norm Compliance," IZA Discussion Papers 13864, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    12. Gary E. Bolton & Eugen Dimant & Ulrich Schmidt, 2020. "When a Nudge Backfires: Combining (Im)Plausible Deniability with Social and Economic Incentives to Promote Behavioral Change," CESifo Working Paper Series 8070, CESifo.
    13. Dimant, Eugen & van Kleef, Gerben A. & Shalvi, Shaul, 2020. "Requiem for a Nudge: Framing effects in nudging honesty," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 172(C), pages 247-266.
    14. Rostan Romaniuc & Dimitri Dubois & Eugen Dimant & Adrian Lupusor & Valeriu Prohnitchi, 2020. "Understanding Cross-Cultural Dfferences in Peer Reporting Practices: Evidence from Tax Evasion Games in Moldova and France," CEE-M Working Papers hal-02991776, CEE-M, Universtiy of Montpellier, CNRS, INRA, Montpellier SupAgro.
    15. Offiaeli, K. & Yaman, F., 2020. "Social Norms as a Cost-Effective Measure of Managing Transport Demand: Evidence from an Experiment on the London Underground," Working Papers 20/07, Department of Economics, City University London.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Conformity; Punishment; Social Norms; Trust;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D73 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Bureaucracy; Administrative Processes in Public Organizations; Corruption
    • H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion and Avoidance

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