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Deviant or Wrong? The Effects of Norm Information on the Efficacy of Punishment

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  • Cristina Bicchieri
  • Eugen Dimant

    (Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Pennsylvania)

  • Erte Xiao

Abstract

A stream of research examining the effect of punishment on conformity indicates that punishment can backfire and lead to suboptimal social outcomes. We examine whether this effect originates from a lack of perceived legitimacy of rule enforcement, enabling agents to justify selfish behavior to themselves. We address the question of punishment legitimacy by shedding light upon the importance of social norms and their interplay with punishment. Often people are presented with incomplete norm information: either about what most others do (empirical) or what most others deem appropriate (normative). We show that neither punishment nor empirical/normative information in isolation result in prosocial behavior. In turn, we find that prosociality is significantly increased when normative information and punishment are combined, but only when compliance is relatively cheap. When compliance is more expensive, we find that the combination of punishment and empirical information about others’ conformity can have detrimental effects on prosocial behavior. We attribute this outcome to the differential ability to distort one’s own beliefs about applicable norms. Our results have important implications for researchers and practitioners alike.

Suggested Citation

  • Cristina Bicchieri & Eugen Dimant & Erte Xiao, 2018. "Deviant or Wrong? The Effects of Norm Information on the Efficacy of Punishment," PPE Working Papers 0016, Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
  • Handle: RePEc:ppc:wpaper:0016
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    Keywords

    Conformity; Experiments; Punishment; Social Norms; Trust Game;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D73 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Bureaucracy; Administrative Processes in Public Organizations; Corruption
    • H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion and Avoidance

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