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The emergence of norms from conflicts over just distributions

  • Luis Miller


    (CESS, Nuffield College, Oxford, Great Britain)

  • Heiko Rauhut


    (ETH Zurich, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology)

  • Fabian Winter


    (Max Planck Institute of Economics, Jena, Germany)

Why is it that well-intentioned actions can create persistent conflicts? While norms are widely regarded as a source for cooperation, this article proposes a novel theory in which the emergence of norms can be understood as a bargaining process in which normative conflicts explain the finally emerging norm. The theory is tested with a dynamical experiment on conflicts over the consideration of equality, effort or efficiency for the distribution of joint earnings. Normative conflict is measured by the number of rejected offers in a recursive bargaining game. The emerging normative system is analyzed by feedback cycles between micro- and macro-level. It is demonstrated that more normative cues cause more normative conflict. Further, under the structural conditions of either simple or complex situations, the convergence towards a simple and widely shared norm is likely. In contrast, in moderately complex situations, convergence is unlikely and several equally reasonable norms co-exist. The findings are discussed with respect to the integration of sociological conflict theory with the bargaining concept in economic theory.

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Paper provided by Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena in its series Jena Economic Research Papers with number 2011-018.

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Date of creation: 04 Apr 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:jrp:jrpwrp:2011-018
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  1. Alexander W. Cappelen & Astri Drange Hole & Erik Ø Sørensen & Bertil Tungodden, 2007. "The Pluralism of Fairness Ideals: An Experimental Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(3), pages 818-827, June.
  2. Nash, John, 1950. "The Bargaining Problem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 18(2), pages 155-162, April.
  3. Anna Conte & Peter Moffatt, 2014. "The econometric modelling of social preferences," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 76(1), pages 119-145, January.
  4. John Hudson, 1996. "Trends in Multi-authored Papers in Economics," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(3), pages 153-158, Summer.
  5. Fabian Winter & Heiko Rauhut & Dirk Helbing, 2009. "How norms can generate conflict," Jena Economic Research Papers 2009-087, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
  6. Heiko Rauhut & Fabian Winter, 2009. "A sociological perspective on measuring social norms by means of strategy method experiments," Jena Economic Research Papers 2009-054, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
  7. Glenn Harrison & E. Rutström, 2009. "Expected utility theory and prospect theory: one wedding and a decent funeral," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 12(2), pages 133-158, June.
  8. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  9. Katrin Schmelz, 2010. "E-nstructions: Using Electronic Instructions in Laboratory Experiments," Jena Economic Research Papers 2010-047, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
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