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An experimental test of the deterrence hypothesis

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  • Hörisch, Hannah
  • Strassmair, Christina

Abstract

Crime has to be punished, but does punishment reduce crime? We conduct a neutrally framed laboratory experiment to test the deterrence hypothesis, namely that crime is weakly decreasing in deterrent incentives, i.e. severity and probability of punishment. In our experiment, subjects can steal from another participant's payoff. Deterrent incentives vary across and within sessions. The across subject analysis clearly rejects the deterrence hypothesis: except for very high levels of incentives, subjects steal more the stronger the incentives. We observe two types of subjects: selfish subjects who act according to the deterrence hypothesis and fair-minded subjects for whom deterrent incentives backfire.

Suggested Citation

  • Hörisch, Hannah & Strassmair, Christina, 2008. "An experimental test of the deterrence hypothesis," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 229, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:trf:wpaper:229
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    Cited by:

    1. Christoph Engel, 2016. "Experimental Criminal Law. A Survey of Contributions from Law, Economics and Criminology," Discussion Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2016_07, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
    2. Antonio Filippin & Paolo Crosetto, 2016. "A Reconsideration of Gender Differences in Risk Attitudes," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 62(11), pages 3138-3160, November.
    3. Tim Friehe & Hannah Schildberg-Hörisch, 2014. "The Individual and Joint Performance of Economic Preferences, Personality, and Self-Control in Predicting Criminal Behavior," CESifo Working Paper Series 4622, CESifo Group Munich.
    4. Khadjavi, Menusch, 2014. "Deterrence works for criminals," Kiel Working Papers 1938, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    5. Pouliakas, Konstantinos, 2008. "Pay enough, don’t pay too much or don’t pay at all? An empirical study of the non-monotonic impact of incentives on job satisfaction," MPRA Paper 10031, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Lisa R. Anderson & Gregory DeAngelo & Winand Emons & Beth Freeborn & Hannes Lang, 2017. "Penalty Structures And Deterrence In A Two-Stage Model: Experimental Evidence," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 55(4), pages 1833-1867, October.
    7. Andreas Leibbrandt & John Lynham, 2017. "Does the Allocation of Property Rights Matter in the Commons?," Monash Economics Working Papers 04-17, Monash University, Department of Economics.
    8. Oren Bar-Gill & Christoph Engel, 2016. "Bargaining in the Absence of Property Rights: An Experiment," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(2), pages 477-495.
    9. Maria Bigoni & Sven-Olof Fridolfsson & Chloé Le Coq & Giancarlo Spagnolo, 2015. "Trust, Leniency, and Deterrence," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 31(4), pages 663-689.
    10. Tim Friehe & Hannah Schildberg-Hörisch, 2014. "Crime and Self-Control Revisited: Disentangling the Effect of Self-Control on Risk and Social Preferences," CESifo Working Paper Series 4747, CESifo Group Munich.
    11. Matteo Rizzolli & Luca Stanca, 2012. "Judicial Errors and Crime Deterrence: Theory and Experimental Evidence," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55(2), pages 311-338.
    12. Sven Hoeppner & Laura Lyhs, 2016. "Behavior Under Vague Standards: Evidence from the Laboratory," Jena Economic Research Papers 2016-010, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
    13. Markussen, Thomas & Putterman, Louis & Tyran, Jean-Robert, 2016. "Judicial error and cooperation," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 89(C), pages 372-388.
    14. repec:eee:joepsy:v:62:y:2017:i:c:p:284-294 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Sebastian Kube & Christian Traxler, 2011. "The Interaction of Legal and Social Norm Enforcement," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 13(5), pages 639-660, October.
    16. Feess, Eberhard & Schildberg-Hörisch, Hannah & Schramm, Markus & Wohlschlegel, Ansgar, 2015. "The impact of fine size and uncertainty on punishment and deterrence: Theory and evidence from the laboratory," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 526, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
    17. Friehe, Tim & Schildberg-Hörisch, Hannah, 2017. "Self-control and crime revisited: Disentangling the effect of self-control on risk taking and antisocial behavior," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 23-32.
    18. Feess, Eberhard & Schramm, Markus & Wohlschlegel, Ansgar, 2014. "The Impact of Fine Size and Uncertainty on Punishment and Deterrence: Evidence from the Laboratory," MPRA Paper 59463, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    19. Matteo Rizzolli, 2016. "Adjudication: Type-I and Type-II Errors," CERBE Working Papers wpC15, CERBE Center for Relationship Banking and Economics.
    20. Matteo Rizzolli & James Tremewan, 2016. "Hard Labour in the lab: Are monetary and non-monetary sanctions really substitutable?," Vienna Economics Papers 1606, University of Vienna, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    deterrence; law and economics; incentives; crowding out; experiment;

    JEL classification:

    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement

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