Compliance by Believing: An Experimental Exploration on Social Norms and Impartial Agreements
31 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2008 Last revised: 9 Jun 2013
Date Written: June 25, 2008
The main contribution of this paper is twofold. First of all, it focuses on the decisional process that leads to the creation of a social norm. Secondly, it analyses the mechanisms through which subjects conform their behaviour to the norm. In particular, our aim is to study the role and the nature of Normative and Empirical Expectations and their influence on people's decisions. The tool is the Exclusion Game, a sort of 'triple mini-dictator game'. It represents a situation where 3 subjects - players A - have to decide how to allocate a sum S among themselves and a fourth subject - player B - who has no decisional power. The experiment consists of three treatments. In the Baseline Treatment participants are randomly distributed in groups of four players and play the Exclusion Game. In the Agreement Treatment in each group participants are invited to vote for a specific non-binding allocation rule before playing the Exclusion Game. In the Outsider Treatment, after the voting procedure and before playing the Exclusion Game, a player A for each group (the outsider) is reassigned to a different group and instructed about the rule chosen by the new group. In all the treatments, at the end of the game and before players are informed about the decisions taken during the Exclusion Game by the other co-players, first order and second order expectations (both normative and empirical) are elicited through a brief questionnaire. The first result we obtained is that subjects' choices are in line with their empirical (not normative) expectations. The second result is that even a non-binding agreement induces convergence of empirical expectations - and, consequently, of choices. The third results is that expectation of conformity is higher in the partner protocol. This implies that a single outsider breaks the 'trust and cooperation' equilibrium.
Keywords: fairness, social norms, beliefs, psychological games, experimental games
JEL Classification: C72, C91, A13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation