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Testing Coleman’s Social-Norm Enforcement Mechanism: Evidence from Wikipedia


Mikolaj Jan Piskorski


Harvard University - Strategy Unit

Andreea D. Gorbatai


Haas School of Business; Harvard Business School / Harvard University

March 26, 2013

Harvard Business School Strategy Unit Working Paper No. 11-055

Abstract:     
Since Durkheim, sociologists have believed that dense network structures lead to fewer norm violations. Coleman (1990) proposed one mechanism generating this relationship and argued that dense networks provide an opportunity structure to reward those who punish norm violators, leading to more frequent punishment and in turn fewer norm violations. Despite ubiquitous scholarly references to Coleman’s theory, little empirical work has directly tested it in large-scale natural settings with longitudinal data. We undertake such a test using records of norm violations during the editing process on Wikipedia, the largest user-generated on-line encyclopedia. These data allow us to track all three elements required to test Coleman’s mechanism: norm violations, punishments for such violations and rewards for those who punish violations. The results are broadly consistent with Coleman’s mechanism.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 58

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Date posted: September 12, 2011 ; Last revised: March 27, 2013

Suggested Citation

Piskorski, Mikolaj Jan and Gorbatai, Andreea D., Testing Coleman’s Social-Norm Enforcement Mechanism: Evidence from Wikipedia (March 26, 2013). Harvard Business School Strategy Unit Working Paper No. 11-055. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1926284 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1926284

Contact Information

Mikolaj Jan Piskorski (Contact Author)
Harvard University - Strategy Unit ( email )
Harvard Business School
Soldiers Field Road
Boston, MA 02163
United States
Andreea D. Gorbatai
Haas School of Business ( email )
545 Student Services Building
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States
Harvard Business School / Harvard University ( email )
Soldiers Field
Boston, MA 02163
United States
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