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Objective and subjective compliance: a norm-based explanation of 'moral wiggle room'

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  • Spiekermann, Kai
  • Weiss, Arne

Abstract

We propose a cognitive-dissonance model of norm compliance to identify conditions for selfishly biased information acquisition. The model distinguishes between: (i) objective norm compliers, for whom the right action is a function of the state of the world; (ii) subjective norm compliers, for whom it is a function of their belief. The former seek as much information as possible; the latter acquire only information that lowers, in expected terms, normative demands. The source of 'moral wiggle room' is not belief manipulation, but the coarseness of normative prescriptions under conditions of uncertainty. In a novel experimental setup, we find evidence for such strategic information uptake. Our results suggest that attempts to change behavior by subjecting individuals to norms can lead to biased information acquisition instead of compliance.

Suggested Citation

  • Spiekermann, Kai & Weiss, Arne, 2016. "Objective and subjective compliance: a norm-based explanation of 'moral wiggle room'," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 64643, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:64643
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    File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/64643/
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Lind, Jo Thori & Nyborg, Karine & Pauls, Anna, 2019. "Save the planet or close your eyes? Testing strategic ignorance in a charity context," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 161(C), pages 9-19.
    2. Tobias Regner & Astrid Matthey, 2017. "Actions and the self: I give, therefore I am?," Jena Economic Research Papers 2017-018, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
    3. 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.
    4. Cristina Bicchieri & Eugen Dimant & Erte Xiao, 2017. "Deviant or Wrong? The Effects of Norm Information on the Efficacy of Punishment," Discussion Papers 2017-14, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
    5. repec:kap:expeco:v:21:y:2018:i:4:d:10.1007_s10683-017-9551-2 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. 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.
    7. Ellingsen, Tore & Mohlin, Erik, 2019. "Decency," Working Papers 2019:3, Lund University, Department of Economics.
    8. repec:gam:jgames:v:9:y:2018:i:2:p:22-:d:143902 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    norm compliance; uncertainty; experiment; self-serving biases; strategic learning; dictator game;

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness

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