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How norms can generate conflict


  • Fabian Winter

    () (Max Planck Institute of Economics, Jena)

  • Heiko Rauhut

    (ETH Zurich, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology)

  • Dirk Helbing

    (ETH Zurich, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology)


Norms play an important role in establishing social order. The current literature focuses on the emergence, maintenance and impact of norms with regard to coordination and cooperation. However, the issue of norm-related conflict deserves more attention. We develop a general theory of "normative conflict" by differentiating between two different kinds of conflict. The first results from distinct expectations of which means should be chosen to fulfil the norm, the second from distinct expectations of how strong the norm should restrain the self-interest. We demonstrate the empirical relevance of normative conflict in an experiment that applies the "strategy method" to the ultimatum game. Our data reveal normative conflict among different types of actors, in particular among egoistic, equity, equality and "cherry picker" types.

Suggested Citation

  • Fabian Winter & Heiko Rauhut & Dirk Helbing, 2009. "How norms can generate conflict," Jena Economic Research Papers 2009-087, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
  • Handle: RePEc:jrp:jrpwrp:2009-087

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Robert Sugden, 2004. "The Opportunity Criterion: Consumer Sovereignty Without the Assumption of Coherent Preferences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 1014-1033, September.
    2. Glenn Ellison, 2005. "A Model of Add-On Pricing," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(2), pages 585-637.
    3. Richard H. Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein, 2003. "Libertarian Paternalism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 175-179, May.
    4. Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2006. "Shrouded Attributes, Consumer Myopia, and Information Suppression in Competitive Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(2), pages 505-540.
    5. Chris M. Wilson & Catherine Waddams Price, 2010. "Do consumers switch to the best supplier?," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 62(4), pages 647-668, October.
    6. Cass R. Sunstein & Richard H. Thaler, 2003. "Libertarian paternalism is not an oxymoron," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, vol. 48(Jun).
    7. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-291, March.
    8. Spiegler, Ran, 2006. "Competition over agents with boundedly rational expectations," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 1(2), pages 207-231, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Tobias Regner & Gerhard Riener, 2011. "Motivational Cherry Picking," Jena Economic Research Papers 2011-029, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
    2. Luis Miller & Heiko Rauhut & Fabian Winter, 2011. "The emergence of norms from conflicts over just distributions," Jena Economic Research Papers 2011-018, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
    3. Helbing, Dirk & Balietti, Stefano, 2011. "Big data, privacy, and trusted web: What needs to be done," MPRA Paper 49702, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Fabian Winter, 2013. "Fairness norms can explain the emergence of specific cooperation norms in the Battle of the Prisoners Dilemma," Jena Economic Research Papers 2013-016, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
    5. Lin, Wan-Ying & Zhang, Xinzhi & Jung, Joo-Young & Kim, Yong-Chan, 2013. "From the wired to wireless generation? Investigating teens’ Internet use through the mobile phone," Telecommunications Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(8), pages 651-661.
    6. Dirk Helbing, 2013. "Economics 2.0: The Natural Step towards A Self-Regulating, Participatory Market Society," Papers 1305.4078,, revised Jun 2013.
    7. Nikiforakis, Nikos & Noussair, Charles N. & Wilkening, Tom, 2012. "Normative conflict and feuds: The limits of self-enforcement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(9-10), pages 797-807.
    8. Antinyan, Armenak & Corazzini, Luca & Neururer, Daniel, 2015. "Public good provision, punishment, and the endowment origin: Experimental evidence," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 72-77.

    More about this item


    Social norms; normative conflict; cooperation; ultimatum game; strategy method; equity;

    JEL classification:

    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D30 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - General

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