An Experimental Study of Conventions and Norms
Although it is now recognized that norms play an important role in many economic decisions, compliance with conventions is generally considered to be driven by rational self-interest only. We report instead experimental data showing that (1) ‘external’ norms of fairness sustain social conventions that have emerged from repeated play of simple coordination games; and (2) with repetition such conventions acquire an ‘intrinsic’ normative power of their own. This creates pressure towards conformity, and patterns of regular behaviour that are far stronger and more stable than those that would be generated by mere self-interest and rationality.
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