IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Good of Rules: An experimental study on prosocial behavior


  • Caserta, Maurizio
  • Distefano, Rosaria
  • Ferrante, Livio


In everyday life, individuals interact with relatives, friends and colleagues, share ideas and passions and cooperate with others to pursue common goals. Within each social domain, individuals recognize themselves as a group member with rights and duties to observe. Understanding the importance of social norms and encouraging mutually beneficial cooperation is crucial for societal and economic development. This paper presents an experimental study of an educational program for early adolescents of 11 years old from South Italy. The program introduces participants to institutions, civic engagement, sense of duty, and decision-making. Among other didactic activities, it includes guided tours and a role-taking game. Our results suggest that the program attendance positively affects cooperation in a one-shot Prisoner’s Dilemma and altruistic behavior in a Dictator Game. Our findings contribute to the nature-nurture debate, showing that promoting prosocial behavior can be effective in pursing the common good.

Suggested Citation

  • Caserta, Maurizio & Distefano, Rosaria & Ferrante, Livio, 2022. "The Good of Rules: An experimental study on prosocial behavior," MPRA Paper 115455, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:115455

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: original version
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Biel, Anders & Thogersen, John, 2007. "Activation of social norms in social dilemmas: A review of the evidence and reflections on the implications for environmental behaviour," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 93-112, January.
    2. Murnighan, J. Keith & Saxon, Michael Scott, 1998. "Ultimatum bargaining by children and adults," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 415-445, August.
    3. La Porta, Rafael, et al, 1997. "Trust in Large Organizations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(2), pages 333-338, May.
    4. Dreber, Anna & Fudenberg, Drew & Rand, David G., 2014. "Who cooperates in repeated games: The role of altruism, inequity aversion, and demographics," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 41-55.
    5. Erin L. Krupka & Roberto A. Weber, 2013. "Identifying Social Norms Using Coordination Games: Why Does Dictator Game Sharing Vary?," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11(3), pages 495-524, June.
    6. Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher, 2003. "The nature of human altruism," Nature, Nature, vol. 425(6960), pages 785-791, October.
    7. Fan, Chinn-Ping, 2000. "Teaching children cooperation -- An application of experimental game theory," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 191-209, March.
    8. Cárdenas, Juan Camilo & Dreber, Anna & von Essen, Emma & Ranehill, Eva, 2015. "Cooperativeness and competitiveness in children," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 32-41.
    9. Sconti, Alessia, 2022. "Digital vs. in-person financial education: What works best for Generation Z?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 194(C), pages 300-318.
    10. Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher, 2004. "Social norms and human cooperation," Macroeconomics 0409026, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Bicchieri,Cristina, 2006. "The Grammar of Society," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521574907, November.
    12. Takezawa, Masanori & Gummerum, Michaela & Keller, Monika, 2006. "A stage for the rational tail of the emotional dog: Roles of moral reasoning in group decision making," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 117-139, February.
    13. Bohnet, Iris & Frey, Bruno S., 1999. "The sound of silence in prisoner's dilemma and dictator games," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 38(1), pages 43-57, January.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Caserta, Maurizio & Distefano, Rosaria & Ferrante, Livio, 2022. "The Good of Rules: An experimental study on prosocial behavior," EconStor Preprints 266393, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.
    2. Caserta, Maurizio & Distefano, Rosaria & Ferrante, Livio & Reito, Francesco, 2023. "The Good of Rules: A pilot study on prosocial behavior," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 107(C).
    3. Bogliacino, Francesco & Codagnone, Cristiano, 2021. "Microfoundations, behaviour, and evolution: Evidence from experiments," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 372-385.
    4. Xile Yin & Siyu Chen & Dahui Li & Feng Zhang, 2021. "Social norms for fairness and board voting behavior: An experimental investigation," Corporate Governance: An International Review, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 29(2), pages 110-133, March.
    5. Bartoš, Vojtěch, 2021. "Seasonal scarcity and sharing norms," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 185(C), pages 303-316.
    6. repec:cup:judgdm:v:16:y:2021:i:5:p:1267-1289 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Eugen Dimant, 2020. "Hate Trumps Love: The Impact of Political Polarization on Social Preferences," ECONtribute Discussion Papers Series 029, University of Bonn and University of Cologne, Germany.
    8. Kölle, Felix & Quercia, Simone, 2021. "The influence of empirical and normative expectations on cooperation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 190(C), pages 691-703.
    9. Columbus, Simon & Böhm, Robert, 2021. "Norm shifts under the strategy method," Judgment and Decision Making, Cambridge University Press, vol. 16(5), pages 1267-1289, September.
    10. Xiaofeng Wang & Xiaojie Chen & Long Wang, 2020. "Evolution of egalitarian social norm by resource management," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 15(1), pages 1-16, January.
    11. Xiao, Erte, 2017. "Justification and conformity," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 136(C), pages 15-28.
    12. Hermes, Henning & Hett, Florian & Mechtel, Mario & Schmidt, Felix & Schunk, Daniel & Wagner, Valentin, 2020. "Do children cooperate conditionally? Adapting the strategy method for first-graders," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 179(C), pages 638-652.
    13. Pietro Guarnieri & Lorenzo Spadoni, 2024. "Norms and anti-coordination: elicitation and priming in an El Farol Bar Game experiment," Discussion Papers 2024/303, Dipartimento di Economia e Management (DEM), University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy.
    14. Qionghan Zhang & Yingyuan Chen & Yuan Tao & Tahir Farid & Jianhong Ma, 2019. "How Consistent Contributors Inspire Individuals to Cooperate: The Role of Moral Elevation and Social Value Orientation," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 11(7), pages 1-19, March.
    15. John Realpe-Gómez & Daniele Vilone & Giulia Andrighetto & Luis G. Nardin & Javier A. Montoya, 2018. "Learning Dynamics and Norm Psychology Supports Human Cooperation in a Large-Scale Prisoner’s Dilemma on Networks," Games, MDPI, vol. 9(4), pages 1-14, November.
    16. Marie-Laure Cabon-Dhersin & Nathalie Etchart-Vincent, 2013. "Wording and gender effects in a Game of Chicken. An explorative experimental study," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) hal-00796708, HAL.
    17. Funk, Matt, 2008. "On the Problem of Sustainable Economic Development: A Theoretical Solution to this Prisoner's Dilemma," MPRA Paper 19025, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 08 Jun 2008.
    18. Francesco Fallucchi & Daniele Nosenzo, 2022. "The coordinating power of social norms," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 25(1), pages 1-25, February.
    19. Fabian Dvorak & Regina Stumpf & Sebastian Fehrler & Urs Fischbacher, 2024. "Generative AI Triggers Welfare-Reducing Decisions in Humans," Papers 2401.12773,
    20. McBride, Michael & Ridinger, Garret, 2021. "Beliefs also make social-norm preferences social," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 191(C), pages 765-784.

    More about this item


    Experimental game theory; Group Decision Making; Cooperation; Prisoner’s Dilemma; Dictator Game.;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General

    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:pra:mprapa:115455. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    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.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with 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.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Joachim Winter (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

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

    IDEAS is a RePEc service. RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.