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From Social Information to Social Norms: Evidence from Two Experiments on Donation Behaviour

Timo Goeschl (), Sara Elisa Kettner (), Johannes Lohse and Christiane Schwieren
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Sara Elisa Kettner: Department of Economics, University of Heidelberg, Bergheimer Str. 20, 69115 Heidelberg, Germany

Games, 2018, vol. 9, issue 4, 1-25

Abstract: While preferences for conformity are commonly seen as an important driver of pro-social behaviour, only a small set of previous studies has explicitly tested the behavioural mechanisms underlying this proposition. In this paper, we report on two interconnected experimental studies that jointly provide a more thorough and robust understanding of a causal mechanism that links social information (i.e., information about the generosity of others) to donations via changing the perception of a descriptive social norm. In a modified dictator game, Experiment 1 re-investigates this mechanism adding further robustness to prior results by eliciting choices from a non-student sample and by implementing an additional treatment that controls for potential anchoring effects implied by the methods used in previous investigations. Experiment 2 adds further robustness by investigating the link between social information, (descriptive) norm perception and giving at the individual, rather than the group average, level. We find that an exogenous variation of social information influences beliefs about others’ contributions (descriptive social norm) and, through this channel, actual giving. An exploratory analysis indicates that this causal relationship is differently pronounced among the two sexes. We rule out anchoring effects as a plausible confound in previous investigations. The key findings carry over to the individual level.

Keywords: Social Norms; Donations; Experiment; Social Information; Altruism (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C C7 C70 C71 C72 C73 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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