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Third-party punishment and social norms

Author

Listed:
  • Ernst Fehr

    (University of Zurich & CEPR)

  • Urs Fischbacher

    (University of Zurich)

Abstract

We examine the characteristics and relative strength of third-party sanctions in a series of experiments. We hypothesize that egalitarian distribution norms and cooperation norms apply in our experiments, and that third parties, whose economic payoff is unaffected by the norm violation, may be willing to enforce these norms although the enforcement is costly for them. Almost two-thirds of the third parties indeed punished the violation of the distribution norm and their punishment increased the more the norm was violated. Likewise, up to roughly 60% of the third parties punished violations of the cooperation norm. Thus, our results show that the notion of strong reciprocity extends to the sanctioning behavior of ‘‘unaffected’’ third parties. In addition, these experiments suggest that thirdparty punishment games are powerful tools for studying the characteristics and the content of social norms. Further experiments indicate that second parties, whose economic payoff is reduced by the norm violation, punish the violation much more strongly than do third parties.

Suggested Citation

  • Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher, 2004. "Third-party punishment and social norms," Experimental 0409002, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpex:0409002
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Social norm; Sanction; Punishment; Strong reciprocity; Social preference; Third party;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • 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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