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Crime as Conditional Rule Violation

Christoph Engel ()

No 2021_20, Discussion Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods from Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods

Abstract: Most of the time most individuals do not commit crime. Why? One explanation is deonto-logical. People abide by legal rules just because these are the rules. In this perspective, the power of normativity is critical. It is supported by experimental evidence. To an im-pressive degree, participants even abide by arbitrary, costly rules, in the complete absence of enforcement. Yet do they also do that if they learn that some of their peers violate the rule? The experiment shows that rule following is conditional on social information. The more peers violate the rule, the more participants are likely to do so as well, and the more severely the violation. This main finding replicates in a vignette study. The effect is most pronounced with speeding, weaker with tax evasion, and absent with littering. In the lab, social information has an effect whether it is framed as the incidence of rule violation or of rule following. If they have no explicit social information, participants condition choices on their beliefs. Even merely knowing that they are part of a group, without knowing how others behave, has an effect.

Keywords: decision to engage in criminal behavior; normativity; deontological motives; rule following; social context; social information; conditional rule following (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021-11-10
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cbe, nep-cdm, nep-exp and nep-law
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