IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Mixing the Carrots with the Sticks: Are Punishment and Reward Substitutes


  • Helen Mitchell
  • Nikos Nikiforakis


This paper presents evidence that the demand for costly norm enforcement can be affected by the availability of the means for enforcing the norm. Participants in a laboratory experiment can reward or punish to enforce a distribution norm. Controlling for the extent of norm violation, we find that demand for costly punishment is lower when participants also have the opportunity to reward norm adherence. Similarly, demand for costly reward is lower when participants can punish norm violations, controlling for the extent of norm adherence. The reason is that participants use reward and punishment to signal their approval and disapproval. The availability of reward opportunities allows them to signal their disapproval by withholding reward. Similarly, the availability of punishment opportunities allows them to signal their approval by withholding punishment. This suggests that individuals consider reward and punishment to be substitutes. The resultant reduction in costly enforcement does not affect adherence to the norm, but has a significant impact on earnings in the experiment.

Suggested Citation

  • Helen Mitchell & Nikos Nikiforakis, 2011. "Mixing the Carrots with the Sticks: Are Punishment and Reward Substitutes," Department of Economics - Working Papers Series 1119, The University of Melbourne.
  • Handle: RePEc:mlb:wpaper:1119

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    More about this item


    punishment; reward; social norms; norm enforcement; third party;

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:mlb:wpaper:1119. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dandapani Lokanathan). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.