Justification and Conformity

49 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2012 Last revised: 30 Dec 2016

Date Written: November 1, 2016


The need for justification is a widely observed social phenomenon and an important part of communication. This paper examines experimentally how pure justification pressure affects conformity behavior in economic environments. The evidence is consistent with justification pressure increasing sensitivity to norm deviations. In a one-shot anonymous interaction, compared with the case when the behavior is simply observed by the audience, individuals’ behaviors are more likely to reflect what they believe the audience thinks they should do when they must explain their decisions to the audience. Whether justification pressure can discourage selfish behavior is positively correlated with the proportion of individuals who believe the audience disapprove such behavior. The implications of these findings can help shape institutions to promote conformity and prosocial behavior.

Keywords: justification, communication, accountability, social norms, expectations, experimental economics

JEL Classification: C91, C72, D63, D03, D83, D84

Suggested Citation

Xiao, Erte, Justification and Conformity (November 1, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1989463 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1989463

Erte Xiao (Contact Author)

Monash University ( email )

23 Innovation Walk
Wellington Road
Clayton, Victoria 3800

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