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Trick for a treat: The effect of costume, identity, and peers on norm violations

Shanshan Zhang, Matthew Gomies, Narek Bejanyan, Zhou Fang, Jason Justo, Li-Hsin Lin, Rainita Narender and Joshua Tasoff

Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 2020, vol. 179, issue C, 460-474

Abstract: We hypothesize that clothes can affect the behavior of the wearer by influencing the person’s identity. We test this hypothesis by recruiting trick-or-treaters during Halloween, a time of year when people wear salient and extreme clothing. Because the tradition of costume-wear for Halloween evolved, in part, to hide one’s identity during “tricks” (i.e. norm violations), we measure the effect of Halloween costumes on ethical behavior. We use the lying game of Fischbacher and Föllmi–Heusi as our experimental paradigm with 2 × 3 × 2 conditions. First, we vary the stakes to price lying behavior. Second, we run three conditions with different beneficiaries of the report (self, other, and both) to test whether lying for others is perceived to be normative. Third, we manipulate the salience of one’s costume to test the effect of costume and identity on ethical behavior. Surprisingly, we find that costume salience caused “good guys” to lie more and “bad guys” to lie less. We interpret this either as a moral licensing effect or as stemming from a perception of being monitored. Our design allows for the identification of contagion effects, and although there were no direct effects of gender, we found that children lie more when children of the same gender near them lie more. We also find that stakes had no effect, people lied more for themselves than for others, and lying has an inverted-U pattern over age, peaking at age 12.

Keywords: Lying; Identity; Costume; Clothes; Norm violation (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2020.09.004

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Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization is currently edited by Houser, D. and Puzzello, D.

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