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Everybody's doing it: On the Emergence and Persistence of Bad Social Norms

Author

Listed:
  • David Smerdon

    (University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands)

  • Theo Offerman

    (University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands)

  • Uri Gneezy

    (UC San Diego, United States)

Abstract

Social norms permeate society across a wide range of issues and are important to understanding how societies function. In this paper we concentrate on 'bad' social norms - those that are inefficient or even damaging to a group. This paper explains how bad social norms evolve and persist; our theory proposes a testable model of bad norms based on anecdotal evidence from real-world examples. We then experimentally test the model and find empirical support to its main predictions. Central to the model is the role of a person's social identity in encouraging compliance to a norm. The strength of this identity is found to have a positive effect on bad norm persistence. Additionally, while the size of the social group does not have a long run effect, smaller groups are more likely to break a bad norm in the short term. Furthermore, the results suggest that both anonymous communication and increasing information about others' payoffs are promising intervention policies to counter bad norms.

Suggested Citation

  • David Smerdon & Theo Offerman & Uri Gneezy, 2016. "Everybody's doing it: On the Emergence and Persistence of Bad Social Norms," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 16-023/I, Tinbergen Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:tin:wpaper:20160023
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    File URL: https://papers.tinbergen.nl/16023.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Chaim Fershtman & Uri Gneezy, 2001. "Discrimination in a Segmented Society: An Experimental Approach," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(1), pages 351-377.
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    3. Uri Gneezy & Kenneth L. Leonard & John A. List, 2009. "Gender Differences in Competition: Evidence From a Matrilineal and a Patriarchal Society," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 77(5), pages 1637-1664, September.
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    5. Klaus Abbink & Jordi Brandts & Benedikt Herrmann & Henrik Orzen, 2010. "Intergroup Conflict and Intra-group Punishment in an Experimental Contest Game," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(1), pages 420-447, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Dimant, Eugen, 2015. "On Peer Effects: Behavioral Contagion of (Un)Ethical Behavior and the Role of Social Identity," MPRA Paper 68732, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Social norms; Experiment; Identity; Behavioral Economics;

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior

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