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When to Favour Your Own group? The Threats of Costly Punishments and In-group Favouritism

  • Donna Harris
  • Benedikt Herrmann
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    Using a laboratory experiment with minimal groups, we examined the extent to which the threats of costly punishments affect in-group favouritism behaviour. We studied three types of punishment separately: in-group, out-group, and third-party punishments. In line with previous studies, the majority of the allocators favoured their own group by allocating more money to each of the in-group members at the expense of the out-group in the baseline without punishment. In the in-group punishment treatment, we observed a slight increase in in-group favouritism behaviour. On the contrary, when only the out-group could punish the allocators, there was a significant drop in in-group favouritism behaviour as well as an increase in the equal division option. Finally, when faced with an independent third-party punisher the allocators continued to favour their own group. The threat of third-party punishment appeared to have no effect on their decisions. Our paper contributes to the literature on in-group favouritism and the nature of social norms by showing that the decision whether to favour one’s own group is affected by the threats of in-group and out-group punishments and whether it leads to an increase or decrease in this behaviour depends on who has the punishment power. Parochial or in-group biased norm was enforced by the in-group members, whilst ‘egalitarian sharing norm’ (across groups) was enforced by the out-group members. We conclude firstly that people apply different ‘self-serving’ social norms depending on their own group identity. Secondly, unlike selfish or opportunistic behaviours, independent third-parties, who only observed this behaviour but were not directly affected by it, were not willing to punish this behaviour.�

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    File URL: http://www.economics.ox.ac.uk/materials/papers/12441/paper628.pdf
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    Paper provided by University of Oxford, Department of Economics in its series Economics Series Working Papers with number 628.

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    Date of creation: 02 Nov 2012
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    Handle: RePEc:oxf:wpaper:628
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    Web page: http://www.economics.ox.ac.uk/
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    1. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, . "A Theory of Fairness, Competition and Cooperation," IEW - Working Papers 004, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
    2. Jordi Brandts & Gary Charness, 2011. "The strategy versus the direct-response method: a first survey of experimental comparisons," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 14(3), pages 375-398, September.
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    4. Jeffrey Carpenter & Peter Matthews, 2009. "What norms trigger punishment?," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 12(3), pages 272-288, September.
    5. Güth, Werner & Levati, M. Vittoria & Ploner, Matteo, 2008. "Social identity and trust--An experimental investigation," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 37(4), pages 1293-1308, August.
    6. Bandiera Oriana & Barankay Iwan & Rasul Imran, 2006. "The Evolution of Cooperative Norms: Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 5(2), pages 1-28, March.
    7. Zantman, Wilfried, 2002. " Constitutional Design and Regional Favoritism," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 4(1), pages 71-93.
    8. Ben-Ner, Avner & McCall, Brian P. & Stephane, Massoud & Wang, Hua, 2009. "Identity and in-group/out-group differentiation in work and giving behaviors: Experimental evidence," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 72(1), pages 153-170, October.
    9. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
    10. Naegelen, Florence & Mougeot, Michel, 1998. "Discriminatory public procurement policy and cost reduction incentives," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(3), pages 349-367, March.
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