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Do the right thing: But only if others do so

  • Bicchieri, Cristina
  • Erte, Xiao

Social norms play an important role in individual decision making. Bicchieri (2006) argues that two different expectations influence our choice to obey a norm: what we expect others to do (empirical expectations) and what we believe others think ought to be done (normative expectations). Little is known about the relative importance of these two types of expectation in individuals’ decisions, an issue that is particularly important when normative and empirical expectations are in conflict (e.g., high crime cities). In this paper, we report data from Dictator game experiments where we exogenously manipulate dictators’ expectations in the direction of either selfishness or fairness. When normative and empirical expectations are in conflict, we find that empirical expectations about other dictators’ choices significantly predict a dictator’s own choice. However, dictators’ expectations regarding what other dictators think should be done do not have a significant impact on their decisions. Our findings about the crucial influence of empirical expectations are important for those who design institutions or policies aimed at discouraging undesirable behavior.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 4609.

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Date of creation: 25 Aug 2007
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:4609
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  1. Offerman, Theo & Sonnemans, Joep & Schram, Arthur, 1996. "Value Orientations, Expectations and Voluntary Contributions in Public Goods," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 106(437), pages 817-45, July.
  2. Erik Kimbrough & Vernon Smith & Bart Wilson, 2006. "Historical Property Rights, Sociality, and the Emergence of Impersonal Exchange in Long-distance Trade," Working Papers 1003, George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science, revised Oct 2006.
  3. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gaechter, . "Cooperation and Punishment in Public Goods Experiments," IEW - Working Papers 010, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  4. Elster, Jon, 1989. "Social Norms and Economic Theory," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 99-117, Fall.
  5. Erte Xiao & Daniel Houser, 2007. "Emotion Expression and Fairness in Economic Exchange," Working Papers 1004, George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science, revised Nov 2007.
  6. Croson, Rachel T. A., 2000. "Thinking like a game theorist: factors affecting the frequency of equilibrium play," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 299-314, March.
  7. Rapoport, Amnon & Suleiman, Ramzi, 1993. "Incremental Contribution in Step-Level Public Goods Games with Asymmetric Players," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 55(2), pages 171-194, July.
  8. Timothy N. Cason & Vai-Lam Mui, 1998. "Social Influence in the Sequential Dictator Game," Monash Economics Working Papers archive-37, Monash University, Department of Economics.
  9. Rapoport, Amnon & Eshed-Levy, Dalit, 1989. "Provision of step-level public goods: Effects of greed and fear of being gypped," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 44(3), pages 325-344, December.
  10. Gary Charness & Martin Dufwenberg, 2006. "Promises and Partnership," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(6), pages 1579-1601, November.
  11. Bardsley, Nicholas & Sausgruber, Rupert, 2005. "Conformity and reciprocity in public good provision," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 26(5), pages 664-681, October.
  12. Elster, Jon, 1996. "Rationality and the Emotions," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 106(438), pages 1386-97, September.
  13. M. Rabin, 2001. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," Levine's Working Paper Archive 511, David K. Levine.
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