Words or Deeds? Choosing What to Know About Others

24 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009

See all articles by Erte Xiao

Erte Xiao

Monash University

Cristina Bicchieri

University of Pennsylvania

Date Written: August 11, 2009


Social cooperation often relies on individuals’ spontaneous norm obedience when there is no punishment for violation or reward for compliance. However, people do not consistently follow pro-social norms. Previous studies have suggested that an individual’s tendency toward norm conformity is affected by empirical information (i.e. what others did or would do in a similar situation) as well as by normative information (i.e. what others think one ought to do). Yet little is known about whether people have an intrinsic desire to obtain norm-revealing information. In this paper, we use a dictator game to investigate whether dictators actively seek norm-revealing information and, if so, whether they prefer to get empirical or normative information. Our data show that although the majority of dictators choose to view free information before making decisions, they are equally likely to choose empirical or normative information. However, a large majority (more than 80%) of dictators are not willing to incur even a very small cost for getting information. Our findings help to understand why norm compliance is context-dependent, and highlight the importance of making norm-revealing information salient in order to promote conformity.

Keywords: social norms, expectations, information, dictator games

JEL Classification: C91, D63, D83

Suggested Citation

Xiao, Erte and Bicchieri, Cristina, Words or Deeds? Choosing What to Know About Others (August 11, 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1447542 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1447542

Erte Xiao (Contact Author)

Monash University ( email )

23 Innovation Walk
Wellington Road
Clayton, Victoria 3800

Cristina Bicchieri

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

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

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