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

Author

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  • Donna Harris
  • Benedikt Herrmann

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Donna Harris & Benedikt Herrmann, 2012. "When to Favour Your Own group? The Threats of Costly Punishments and In-group Favouritism," Economics Series Working Papers 628, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:oxf:wpaper:628
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    File URL: http://www.economics.ox.ac.uk/materials/papers/12441/paper628.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Jordi Brandts & Gary Charness, 2011. "The strategy versus the direct-response method: a first survey of experimental comparisons," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 14(3), pages 375-398, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Tor Eriksson & Lei Mao & Marie Claire Villeval, 2017. "Saving face and group identity," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 20(3), pages 622-647, September.
    2. Bicskei, Marianna & Lankau, Matthias & Bizer, Kilian, 2014. "How peer-punishment affects cooperativeness in homogeneous and heterogeneous groups: A public goods experiment with social identity," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 200, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
    3. de Melo, Gioia & Piaggio, Matías, 2015. "The perils of peer punishment: Evidence from a common pool resource framed field experiment," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 376-393.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    In-group favouritism; Group behaviour; Social identity; Social norm; In-group punishment; Out-group punishment; Third-party punishment; Favour game;

    JEL classification:

    • D70 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - General
    • D73 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Bureaucracy; Administrative Processes in Public Organizations; Corruption
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior

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