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Norms Make Preferences Social

We develop a unifying explanation for prosocial behavior. We argue that people care not about others’ payoffs per se, but whether their own behavior accords with social norms. Individuals who are sensitive to norms will adhere to them so long as they observe others doing the same. A model formalizing this generates both prosociality (without relying on explicit distributional preferences) and well-known context effects (for which distributional preferences cannot account). A simple experiment allows us to measure individual-level normsensitivity and to show that norm-sensitivity explains heterogeneity in prosociality in public goods, dictator, ultimatum, and trust games.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University in its series Discussion Papers with number dp13-01.

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Length: 59
Date of creation: May 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:sfu:sfudps:dp13-01
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Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, BC, V5A 1S6, Canada

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