Do the Right Thing: But Only If Others Do So

Journal of Behavioral Decision Making 22: 191-208, 2009

40 Pages Posted: 26 Aug 2007 Last revised: 26 Jul 2012

See all articles by Cristina Bicchieri

Cristina Bicchieri

University of Pennsylvania

Erte Xiao

Monash University

Date Written: August 25, 2007

Abstract

Social norms play an important role in individual decision making. Bicchieri (2006) argues that two different expectations influence our choice to obey a norm: what we expect others to do (empirical expectations) and what we believe others think ought to be done (normative expectations). Little is known about the relative importance of these two types of expectation in individuals' decisions, an issue that is particularly important when normative and empirical expectations are in conflict (e.g., high crime cities). In this paper, we report data from Dictator game experiments where we exogenously manipulate dictators' expectations in the direction of either selfishness or fairness. When normative and empirical expectations are in conflict, we find that empirical expectations about other dictators' choices significantly predict a dictator's own choice. However, dictators' expectations regarding what other dictators think should be done do not have a significant impact on their decisions. Our findings about the crucial influence of empirical expectations are important for those who design institutions or policies aimed at discouraging undesirable behavior.

Keywords: social norms, expectations, dictator game, experimental economics

JEL Classification: C91, C72

Suggested Citation

Bicchieri, Cristina and Xiao, Erte, Do the Right Thing: But Only If Others Do So (August 25, 2007). Journal of Behavioral Decision Making 22: 191-208, 2009 , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1009851 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1009851

Cristina Bicchieri

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
215-898-5820 (Phone)

Erte Xiao (Contact Author)

Monash University ( email )

23 Innovation Walk
Wellington Road
Clayton, Victoria 3800
Australia

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