Behavioural Effects of Obligations
Econpubblica Working Paper No. 120
22 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 2009
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.
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