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Deviant or Wrong? The Effects of Norm Information on the Efficacy of Punishment

Cristina Bicchieri (), Eugen Dimant () and Erte Xiao ()
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Cristina Bicchieri: University of Pennsylvania

No 23, ECONtribute Discussion Papers Series from University of Bonn and University of Cologne, Germany

Abstract: A stream of research examining the effect of punishment on conformity indicates that punishment can backfire and lead to suboptimal social outcomes. We examine whether this effect is due to a lack of perceived legitimacy of rule enforcement, enabling agents to justify selfish behavior. We address the question of punishment legitimacy by shedding light upon the importance of social norms and their interplay with punishment. People are often presented with incomplete norm information: either about what most others do (empirical) or what most others deem appropriate (normative). We show that in isolation, neither punishment nor empirical/normative information increase prosocial behavior. In turn, we find that prosociality significantly increases when normative information and punishment are combined, but only when compliance is relatively cheap. When compliance is more expensive, we find that the combination of punishment and empirical information about others' conformity can have detrimental effects. In additional experiments, we explain how this negative effect is due, at least for some individuals, to punishment not being perceived as justified. Our results have important implications for researchers and practitioners alike.

Keywords: Conformity; Punishment; Social Norms; Trust (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C91 D03 D73 H26 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 50 pages
Date: 2020-08
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-exp, nep-law and nep-soc
References: View references in EconPapers View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations: View citations in EconPapers (2) Track citations by RSS feed

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https://selten.institute/RePEc/ajk/ajkdps/ECONtribute_023_2020.pdf First version, 2020 (application/pdf)

Related works:
Working Paper: Deviant or Wrong? The Effects of Norm Information on the Efficacy of Punishment (2018) Downloads
Working Paper: Deviant or Wrong? The Effects of Norm Information on the Efficacy of Punishment (2017) Downloads
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Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:ajk:ajkdps:023

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