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Endogenous Preferences and Conformity: Evidence From a Pilot Experiment


  • Sergio Beraldo

    () (Department of Economics, University of Napoli, Italy)

  • Valerio Filoso

    () (Department of Law, University of Napoli, Italy)

  • Marco Stimolo

    () (Department of Law, University of Napoli, Italy)


Conformity behavior, i.e., the agreement between an individual’s choices and the prevailing behavior of a reference group, is a commonly observed phenomenon. Though some types of social interactions may give raise to specific incentives to adopt either a majoritarian or a contrarian behavior, we want to investigate whether the same behavioral pattern emerges even when no economic motivator is present. To accomplish this task, we employ an experimental Vickrey median price auction designed to provide incentives to reveal individual preferences truthfully. Whereas we feed the control group with just the median price, we give out additional information on other players' bids for those in the treated groups. These informations are designed to provide hints at revising individual bids. Our main results point to a strong tendency of the individuals to adapt their behavior to those of the individuals which can be observed. Moreover, although a clear shaping effect (a regression toward the median price) does emerge for the control group, the provision of information about the actual behavior of a sample of the relevant group is able to minimize or neutralize the shaping effect. Specifically, we find that players adjust to a divergence between their bids and the average bid of a reference group by a factor of 47.4%-87.3%. These figures point to a relevant role for conformity in group behavior.

Suggested Citation

  • Sergio Beraldo & Valerio Filoso & Marco Stimolo, 2014. "Endogenous Preferences and Conformity: Evidence From a Pilot Experiment," Working papers 024, Department of Economics and Statistics (Dipartimento di Scienze Economico-Sociali e Matematico-Statistiche), University of Torino.
  • Handle: RePEc:tur:wpapnw:024

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Klick, Jonathan & Parisi, Francesco, 2008. "Social networks, self-denial, and median preferences: Conformity as an evolutionary strategy," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 37(4), pages 1319-1327, August.
    2. Loomes, Graham & Starmer, Chris & Sugden, Robert, 2010. "Preference reversals and disparities between willingness to pay and willingness to accept in repeated markets," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 374-387, June.
    3. Fabio Tufano, 2010. "Are ‘true’ preferences revealed in repeated markets? An experimental demonstration of context-dependent valuations," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 13(1), pages 1-13, March.
    4. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-291, March.
    5. William Vickrey, 1961. "Counterspeculation, Auctions, And Competitive Sealed Tenders," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 16(1), pages 8-37, March.
    6. Graham Loomes & Chris Starmer & Robert Sugden, 2003. "Do Anomalies Disappear in Repeated Markets?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(486), pages 153-166, March.
    7. Sushil Bikhchandani & David Hirshleifer & Ivo Welch, 1998. "Learning from the Behavior of Others: Conformity, Fads, and Informational Cascades," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(3), pages 151-170, Summer.
    8. David J. Butler & Graham C. Loomes, 2007. "Imprecision as an Account of the Preference Reversal Phenomenon," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(1), pages 277-297, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Angela Ambrosino, 2017. "The Role of Agents’ Propensity toward Conformity and Independence in the Process of Institutional Change," STOREPapers 1_2017, Associazione Italiana per la Storia dell'Economia Politica - StorEP.
    2. Meub, Lukas & Proeger, Till, 2014. "An experimental study on social anchoring," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 196, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.

    More about this item


    Endogenous preferences; shaping effect; social conformity; Vickrey auction;

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • D44 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Auctions

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