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Social norms or low-cost heuristics? An experimental investigation of imitative behavior

Simona Cicognani and Luigi Mittone

No 1402, CEEL Working Papers from Cognitive and Experimental Economics Laboratory, Department of Economics, University of Trento, Italia

Abstract: This paper extends choice theory by allowing for the interaction between cognitive costs and social norms. We experimentally investigate the role of imitation when participants face a task which is costly in cognitive terms. We identify two main reasons for imitative behavior. First, individuals belonging to a community might want to conform to others to obey to social norms. Second, individuals might be boundedly rational and consider imitation as a decisional device when comparing alternatives is cognitively demanding. In order to disentangle the two effects, we devise a laboratory experiment with a novel experimental task in which we model the choice of different alternatives through high or low cognitive costs and feedback information provided to subjects. Our results provide evidence for imitative behavior only through the channel of beliefs regarding others� performance. We also find a temporal pattern in the distribution of choices, both in the high-cost and low-cost cognitive conditions, that may represent another cognitive shortcut.

Keywords: Social Norms; Cognitive Costs; Laboratory Experiments (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C92 D81 Z13 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2014
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cbe, nep-evo, nep-exp and nep-soc
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