Beware of Broken Windows! First Impressions in Public-Good Experiment
32 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2009 Last revised: 29 Jan 2013
Date Written: January 1, 2013
Broken Windows: the metaphor has changed New York and Los Angeles. Yet it is far from un-disputed whether the broken windows policy was causal for reducing crime. In a series of lab experiments we put two components of the theory to the test. We show that first impressions and early punishment of antisocial behaviour are independently and jointly causal for cooperativeness. The effect of good first impressions and of early vigilance cannot be explained with, but adds to, participants’ initial level of benevolence. Mere impression management is not strong enough to maintain cooperation. Cooperation stabilizes if good first impressions are combined with some risk of sanctions. Yet if we control for first impressions, early vigilance only has a small effect. The effect vanishes over time.
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