Behavioural Effects of Obligations

Econpubblica Working Paper No. 120

22 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 2009

See all articles by Roberto Galbiati

Roberto Galbiati

Department of Economics, Sciences Po-CNRS

Pietro Vertova

Bocconi University

Date Written: January 15, 2007


How formal rules affect human behaviour is a crucial issue in economics. Formal rules are defined as obligations backed by incentives. The economic literature has largely focused on the role of incentives in shaping individual behaviour, Yet, the role of obligations, i.e. what formal rules ask people to do or not to do, has been largely ignored. In this paper we run a public good game experiment to analyze the bahavioural effects of obligations. We find evidence that obligations can affect cooperative bahaviour both by coordinating conditional cooperators beliefs about others behaviour and by directly affecting preferences for cooperations. Our results shed a new light on the behavioural channels through which formal rules can affect individual behaviour. These findings suggest the opportunity to broaden the scope of analysis in order to again a better understanding of the effects of institutions on economic outcomes.

Suggested Citation

Galbiati, Roberto and Vertova, Pietro, Behavioural Effects of Obligations (January 15, 2007). Econpubblica Working Paper No. 120, Available at SSRN: or

Roberto Galbiati (Contact Author)

Department of Economics, Sciences Po-CNRS ( email )

28 rue des saints peres
Paris, 75007

Pietro Vertova

Bocconi University ( email )

Via Sarfatti, 25
Milan, MI 20136

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