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Driving Forces of Informal Sanctions

  • Armin Falk
  • Ernst Fehr
  • Urs Fischbacher

Informal sanctions are a major determinant of a society's social capital because they are key to the enforcement of implicit agreements and social norms. Yet, little is known about the driving forces behind informal sanctions. We systematically examine the determinants of informal sanctions by a large number of experiments. Our findings show that the violation of fairness principles is the most important driving force of sanctions but, in addition, a non-negligible part of the sanctions is driven by spitefulness. We find surprisingly little evidence for strategic sanctions that are imposed to create future material benefits. While non-strategic sanctions are of major importance in our experiments, strategic sanctions seem to play a negligible role. Within the class of fairness-driven sanctions the motive to harm those who committed unfair actions seems most important.

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Paper provided by Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich in its series IEW - Working Papers with number 059.

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